Six other big cats at the zoo have also shown symptoms of the virus and are under veterinary care at the zoo, which has been shut to the public since March.
In a first, an animal has tested positive and shown symptoms for the virus that is affecting more than a million people across the world. A tiger called Nadia at the Bronx Zoo in New York has tested positive for the infection caused by coronavirus.
Until now, it was known that both wild and domestic cats are susceptible to feline coronavirus, however, it was not known if they could contract SARS-CoV-2, according to the National Geographic. However, a new study found that cats might be able to infect each other and now scientists are trying to find if other animals could be susceptible to it too.
Meanwhile, in New York, the female Malayan tiger is the first known case of an animal being infected with the disease in the US. Nadia and six other big cats have been isolated. They are believed to have been infected by an asymptomatic zookeeper, according to BBC. "It’s the only thing that makes sense," Paul Calle, the chief veterinarian at the zoo, said, as per the National Geographic. The big cats had shown symptoms like dry cough and loss of appetite in late March. The zoo had been closed to the public since March 16.
Nadia was tested for the virus on April 2. They had sent the samples to the New York State Diagnostic Laboratory at Cornell University and to the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. "Considering what’s going on in New York City, we, of course, did the COVID testing," Calle said. The result was positive.
"We tested the cat [Nadia] 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, as per BBC.
The big cats "are otherwise doing well under veterinary care and are bright, alert, and interactive with their keepers", the statement said. The other big cats in the zoo, which include four other tigers, snow leopards, cheetahs, a clouded leopard, an Amur leopard, a puma, and a serval, are not showing any signs of illness.
Among the other six big cats under veterinary care are Nadia's sister Azul, two Siberian tigers, and three African lions. They also experienced coughs and a loss of appetite, though they have not been tested. The animals are expected to make a recovery according to Calle. However, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the nonprofit that runs the Bronx Zoo, has warned that it's unknown how the disease affects animals.
"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," Calle was quoted as saying by BBC. He plans to share the findings with other zoos and institutions researching how this infection is transmitted. Previously, there have been a few cases of domestic pets testing positive in some parts of the world such as two dogs in Hong Kong and one cat in Belgium. However, experts have said that there is no evidence that pets can become sick or spread the disease.
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
"You cannot send human samples to the veterinary laboratory, and you cannot send animal tests to the human laboratories, so there is no competition for testing between these very different situations," he added, as per Time.com when asked why the animals were tested when there aren't enough tests for humans available.
There are many unanswered questions and when they share the information from their experience, it might turn out that there are more cases, said Calle.
Meanwhile, the repercussions are being felt across the world. The Big Cat Sanctuary, a private organization in England, has said in a statement that nobody, not humans nor animals are showing signs of illness. "We are currently investigating the situation ourselves and working with our vets to find out more. Currently, none of our members of staff or our cats are showing any indications of illness, in fact, all have been their usual happy and healthy selves - enjoying spring-like weather and the weekend full of sunshine. We are, of course, monitoring the situation and will update further once we know more," the said in a Facebook statement.
Disclaimer: Information about COVID-19 is swiftly changing, and Womenworking is committed to providing the most recent and verified updates in our articles and reportage. However, considering the frequency in developments, some of the information/data in this article may have changed since the time of publication. Therefore, we encourage you to also regularly check online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization.