A four-year-old Malaysian tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for coronavirus.
The tiger, named Nadia, is the first known case of an animal infected with a human with Covid-19.
The Bronx Zoo in New York says the test result has been confirmed by the Iowa National Veterinary Services Laboratory.
Nadia, along with six other big cats, was reportedly infected by an asymptomatic zoo keeper.
The cats started showing symptoms, including a dry cough, late last month after exposure to the employee, who was not identified.
“This is the first time that one of us has known anywhere in the world that a person has infected the animal and that he becomes sick,” Paul Calle told Reuters news agency on Sunday. the zoo’s chief veterinarian.
He said he intends to share the results with other zoos and institutions studying the transmission of Covid-19.
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“We tested the cat [Nadia] on an abundance of caution and will ensure that any knowledge we gain about Covid-19 will contribute to the continued understanding of this new coronavirus around the world, “said the zoo in a statement.
Nadia, her sister Azul, as well as two Amur tigers and three African lions who have shown symptoms, are all expected to recover fully, the zoo said.
The big cats have had some decrease in appetite but “are doing otherwise well under veterinary care and are bright, alert and interactive with their keepers,” he said.
The zoo said it is not known how the virus will develop in animals like tigers and lions, as various species may react differently to new infections, but all animals will be closely monitored.
None of the zoo’s other big cats – four other tigers, snow leopards, cheetahs, an opaque leopard, an Amur leopard, a puma and a serval – show no signs of illness.
“Our cats were infected by a caregiver who was asymptomatically infected with the virus or before that person developed symptoms,” said the zoo.
All tigers showing symptoms were housed in the Tiger Mountain area of the zoo.
The four zoos managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York, including the Bronx Zoo, have been closed to the public since March 16. New measures will now be put in place to protect animals and their keepers in all facilities.
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This case is described as unusual because transmissions of coronavirus from humans to animals have been rare and poorly understood so far.
A handful of cases of coronavirus have been reported in Hong Kong, including a dog with a low test for the disease.
The coronavirus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of last year.
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The coronavirus (called Sars-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19 disease) is believed to have originated in wildlife and was transmitted to humans via a live animal market in Wuhan.
The pandemic was caused by human-to-human transmission, but Nadia’s infection raises new questions about human-to-human transmission.
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There is “no evidence that anyone has been infected with Covid-19 in the United States from animals, including dogs or cats,” the zoo statement said.
This is also the view of the World Health Organization (WHO), which claims that there is no evidence that companion dogs or cats can transmit the coronavirus.
However, conservation experts have warned that the virus could pose a threat to some wildlife such as the great apes – and said measures are needed to reduce the risk of wild gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans.