Nadia, a four-year-old Malayan tiger, is the first case of Coronavirus in a tiger anywhere in the world.
The deadly COVID-19 is unlike any other virus the world has seen. As it is so novel, scientists are still discovering how it behaves and analyzing how it reacts to various treatments. Most recently, experts discovered that the virus can be transmitted to tigers. When Nadia, a four-year-old Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York City, began exhibiting signs of respiratory illness, she was tested for Coronavirus. She tested positive, The Guardian reports. Samples were taken from six other lions and tigers at the zoo that exhibited signs of the disease. Nonetheless, all the animals are recovering, according to zoo officials.
Nadia is now the first confirmed case of Coronavirus in an animal in the United States or a tiger anywhere, both federal officials and the Bronx Zoo stated on Sunday. The first animal began displaying symptoms of COVID-19 on March 27. As per Dr. Paul Calle, the zoo’s chief veterinarian, Nadia, her sister Azul, two Amur tigers, and three African lions had developed dry coughs. Some of the cats also had symptoms of wheezing and loss of appetite. Reportedly, Nadia contracted the disease through an infected zoo employee. At the time, the zoo employee believed to have infected Nadia had not yet begun showing symptoms. The director of the zoo, Jim Breheny, said in a statement, "These are extremely hard days for all of us – no matter where we live and work. We will ensure that whatever we can learn from these circumstances will be used to better understand and combat this disease."
The Malayan tiger's positive result, confirmed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in a veterinary lab, raises questions about how the virus can be transmitted, particularly in animals. So far, there have been no positive cases of Coronavirus 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," explained Dr. Jane Rooney, a veterinarian and a USDA official. The USDA on Sunday announced that "it was not recommending routine coronavirus testing of animals, in zoos or elsewhere, or of zoo employees." Despite this, a few animals had been tested for the disease through the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories. Bar Nadia's test results, all came back negative.
The Malayan tiger Nadia @BronxZoo who tested positive for #coronavirus back in 2016 when she was a cub with her sister Azul (both born @ bronx zoo) who is also showing #Covid19 symptoms along with 2 Amul tigers and 3 African lions. #CoronavirusUSA #NYC pic.twitter.com/HB6JLNXaAM— Laura (@fashion7thave) April 5, 2020
Experts still affirm that the various COVID-19 outbreaks around the world are a result of person-to-person transmission. However, there have been some reports of house pets becoming infected with Coronavirus after close contact with carriers of the virus. For instance, a dog in Hong Kong tested positive for a low level of the Coronavirus in February and early March. As per conclusions drawn by Hong Kong agriculture authorities, while pet dogs and cats cannot transmit the virus to humans, they could catch Coronavirus if exposed to it by their owners. Meanwhile, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended that those who test positive for the disease should limit their contact with animals as a precautionary measure. The CDC also recommends washing your hands after handling animals as well as other precautions to keep your home clean.
From Dr. Paul Calle, Bronx Zoo chief veterinarian; "The COVID-19 testing that was performed on our Malayan tiger Nadia was performed in a veterinary school laboratory and is not the same test as is used for people.— Bronx Zoo (@BronxZoo) April 6, 2020
At present, the Bronx Zoo is taking the "appropriate preventive measures" for the zoo employees caring for the ill animals. The seven ailing cats live in two areas at the zoo. Other cats in the same enclosures have no exhibited any signs of illness thus far. Furthermore, the staffer thought to have infected the seven animals was "doing okay," according to zoo officials. Nadia's case is helping experts learn more about the disease, but health and safety are of utmost priority.