In the first known animal case in the US, a tiger in the Bronx Zoo tests positive for COVID-19.

As a documentary turns the hearts of many Americans towards big cats, tigers make pandemic news. Late last month at the Bronx Zoo in New York City, seven big cats began showing coronavirus-like symptoms, including a dry cough. One of the tigers, a Malayan tiger named Nadia, was tested for COVID-19 "out of an abundance of caution," says the zoo in a statement. The positive test was confirmed by the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory, based in Ames, Iowa.

"Our cats were infected by a person caring for them who was asymptomatically infected with the virus or before that person developed symptoms," explains the zoo statement. 

In a comment to Reuters news agency, the zoo's chief veterinarian said, "This is the first time that any of us know of anywhere in the world that a person infected the animal and the animal got sick."

The big cats are okay, by the way. The zoo anticipates full recoveries.


What this means for the pandemic

As you probably know, the novel coronavirus was first documented in humans late last year in Wuhan, China. This coronavirus, Sars-CoV-2 (which causes the disease COVID-19), is assumed to have originated in wildlife and been passed to humans through a live animal market in Wuhan. All of this current pandemic has been due to subsequent human-to-human infection.

There have been just a few isolated reports of pets getting COVID-19, like two dogs in Hong Kong.

Both the Bronx Zoo and the World Health Organization insist that there is no evidence that any person has been infected with the coronavirus by an animal. The zoo's statement reads:

"There is no evidence that animals play a role in the transmission of COVID-19 to people other than the initial event in the Wuhan market, and no evidence that any person has been infected with COVID-19 in the US by animals, including by pet dogs or cats."

It's even the subject of one of the WHO's "mythbuster" images:

Courtesy of the World Health Organization.

However, the World Organisation for Animal Health has studies underway to investigate the issue and recommends those that are sick to avoid contact with pets.

If you've made it through this far and just want to see the cute tigers in question, here you go:

What's your reaction to a tiger getting COVID-19? Unrelated—have you seen Tiger King?

Comment and join the discussion!