A Bronx Zoo tiger infected with coronavirus likely got the bug from a zookeeper, according to reports.
“It’s the first time, to our knowledge, that a (wild) animal has gotten sick from COVID-19 from a person,” Paul Calle, the zoo’s chief veterinarian, told National Geographic. “It’s the only thing that makes sense.
Cats, both domestic and wild, are susceptible to feline coronavirus, the report said, but scientists had been unaware that they could contract the COVID-19 strain from humans.
The Wildlife Conservation Society, the nonprofit that runs the zoo, said in a statement Sunday that Nadia, a 4-year-old Malayan tiger, had tested positive for the virus after developing a dry cough and other flu-like symptoms.
Nadia was tested for the virus on April 2 by the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Iowa, with the test coming back positive on Sunday.
In a tweet Sunday night, Calle explained that the veterinary test differs from the one given to humans.
The society said six other big cats at the zoo, including Nadia’s twin sister Azul, developed similar symptoms but are expected to recover.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, all of the zoo’s big cats are being closely monitored by the USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to “determine whether other animals, at this zoo or in other areas, should be tested.”
In a statement Monday, Panthera, the world’s largest big cat conservation group, called on the World Health Organization to examine the health risks associated with wildlife markets.
“As a guardian of global public health, the WHO must take a decisive step to prevent the next pandemic by urging governments to permanently ban live wildlife markets and proactively address the proven health risks stemming from the wildlife trade.”
Officials at the Wildlife Conservation Society did not respond to requests for comment.
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