New York City, with over eight million inhabitants, is currently one of the epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic, with over 142,000 cases that tested positive and 11,000 deaths so far.
This has led to many activities being canceled or closed down, such as the Bronx Zoo, one of the largest zoos in the US, closed since early March. Nevertheless, the fact that visitors are no longer welcomed hasn’t reduced the risk for animals at the zoo.
Four more tigers and three lions have recently tested positive for the coronavirus – bringing the total to eight big cats that have come down with COVID-19. Nadia, a four-year-old Malayan tiger, had been the first confirmed case, showing a dry cough and loss of appetite.
Nadia’s diagnosis was “the first time, to our knowledge, that an [wild] animal has gotten sick from COVID-19 from a person,” Paul Calle, the chief veterinarian of the Bronx Zoo, told National Geographic.
The veterinary staff at the zoo collected samples from Nadia’s nose, throat, and respiratory tract while she was under anesthesia. The other animals who developed a cough – three other tigers from the Tiger Mountain section of the zoo and three African lions – were not placed under anesthesia.
The zoo said that all eight cats “continue to do well” and are “behaving normally, eating well, and their coughing is greatly reduced.” Zoo officials said they believe the animals were infected by an asymptomatic staff member who unwittingly passed the virus on to them.
The zoo conducted its analyses of the animals in conjunction with the New York State Diagnostic Laboratory at Cornell University and the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab at the University of Illinois’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
“We tested the tigers and lions 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,” said the zoo officials. “The testing of these cats was done in veterinary laboratories and resources used did not take from those being used for human testing,” they added.
Zoo officials said that none of its snow leopards, cheetahs, clouded leopards, Amur leopards, or pumas were showing any signs of illness. The zoo has put in place “preventive measures” for all staff members caring for animals.
Two pet cats in New York state have also tested positive for coronavirus, becoming the first domestic animal cases detected in the US. Both animals live in different areas of New York state. They have mild respiratory problems and are expected to recover soon.
Both cats and dogs can, in theory, contract the virus — but these are isolated cases. Cats seem more susceptible to dogs, but if a cat gets the virus, it likely gets it from a human. In other words, you’re more likely to give the virus to your cat than the other way around.
The American Veterinary Medical Association and CDC have been recommending that out of an abundance of caution, people ill with the coronavirus should limit contact with animals — advice that the veterinary group reiterated after learning of the tiger’s test result.