A tiger at New York’s Bronx Zoo has tested positive for the new coronavirus, in what is believed to be the first known infection in an animal in the United States or a tiger anywhere in the world, federal officials and the zoo said.
The four-year-old Malayan tiger named Nadia was among a group of six other animals to have also fallen ill, the Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages the zoo, said in a statement on Sunday.
She was screened for the COVID-19 disease after developing a dry cough along with three other tigers and three lions, it said, adding that all of the cats are expected to recover.
The test result stunned zoo officials: “I couldn’t
believe it,” director Jim Breheny said. The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is believed to have spread from animals to humans, and a handful of animals have tested positive in Hong Kong.
But officials believe this is a unique case because Nadia became sick after exposure to an asymptomatic zoo employee, Paul Calle, chief veterinarian at the Bronx Zoo, told Reuters news agency. Calle said they did not know which employee infected the tiger.
“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 said, adding that they planned to share the findings with other zoos and institutions. “Hopefully we will all have a better understanding as a result.”