Bronx Zoo tiger diagnosed with coronavirus after developing dry cough

6 April 2020, 09:07

A tiger at Bronx Zoo is pictured
A tiger at Bronx Zoo is pictured. Picture: Getty

By Kate Buck

A tiger has been diagnosed with coronavirus after developing a dry cough in a New York Zoo.

The four-year-old Malayan tiger named Nadia at the Bronx Zoo is now believed to be the first animal to test positive in the US, authorities said.

Nadia and six other tigers and lions that have also fallen ill are believed to have been infected by a zoo employee who was not yet showing symptoms, the zoo said.

The animals are all expected to recover.

In a statement, the zoo said all the animals lost their appetite but are "doing well under veterinary care and are bright, alert and interactive with their keepers".

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Other cats have also been showing symptoms
Other cats have also been showing symptoms. Picture: PA

A spokesperson continued: "We tested the cat [Nadia] out of an abundance of caution and will ensure any knowledge we gain about COVID-19 will contribute to the world's continuing understanding of this novel coronavirus."

The finding raises new questions about transmission of the virus in animals.

The US Department of Agriculture, which confirmed Nadia's test result at its veterinary lab, says there are no known cases of the virus in US pets or livestock.

"There doesn't appear to be, at this time, any evidence that suggests that the animals can spread the virus to people or that they can be a source of the infection in the United States," said Dr Jane Rooney, a veterinarian and a USDA official.

The USDA said it is not recommending routine coronavirus testing of animals, in zoos or elsewhere, or of zoo employees.

The coronavirus outbreaks around the world are driven by person-to-person transmission, experts say.

There have been reports of a small number of pets outside the United States becoming infected after close contact with contagious people, including a Hong Kong dog that tested positive for a low level of the pathogen in February and early March.

Hong Kong agriculture authorities concluded that pet dogs and cats could not pass the virus to human beings but could test positive if exposed by their owners.

Some researchers have been trying to understand the susceptibility of different animal species to the virus, and to determine how it spreads among animals, according to the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health.

There have now been more than 1.2 million confirmed cases of coronavirus around the world, and almost 70,000 have died.

In the US alone, over 331,000 cases have been confirmed, making it the hardest hit country on the planet.

More than 9,400 people have died in the US.

The worst affected state is New York, which has seen nearly 4,200 deaths.