Tiger at Bronx Zoo tests positive for coronavirus in 'first of its kind' case

Nadia, a 4-year-old Malaysian tiger, is believed to have contracted the coronavirus from an asymptomatic zoo employee.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Alyssa Newcomb

A tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York City tested positive for the coronavirus, the zoo announced on Sunday. This is the first known instance of a tiger being infected with the virus.

Nadia, a 4-year-old Malaysian tiger, was tested after she developed a dry cough and had a decrease in appetite, according to a news release from the Bronx Zoo. The test was confirmed by the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory, based in Ames, Iowa.

"We tested the cat 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 zoo said in a statement.

Three other tigers and three African lions also exhibited similar symptoms, the zoo said. All of the cats, including Nadia, are expected to make full recoveries.

"Though they have experienced some decrease in appetite, the cats at the Bronx Zoo are otherwise doing well under veterinary care and are bright, alert, and interactive with their keepers," the zoo said. "It is not known how this disease will develop in big cats since different species can react differently to novel infections, but we will continue to monitor them closely and anticipate full recoveries."

The USDA said in a news release that public health officials believe the cats became sick after they were exposed to an asymptomatic zoo employee. The zoo has been closed to the public since March 16 and the first tiger started to show signs of illness on March 27.

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There is still a lot that public health experts do not understand about the coronavirus. The USDA recommends that people sick with COVID-19 restrict their contact with pets out of an abundance of caution.

"Although there have not been reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus," the USDA said in a statement. "If a sick person must care for a pet or be around animals, they should wash their hands before and after the interaction."