While we've all been busy observing lockdown rules (and watching Tiger King) in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus, some have questioned whether or not the virus can be transmitted, or indeed caught, by animals. It seems the latter has now been confirmed: a 4-year-old Malayan tiger, known as Nadia, who resides in the Bronx Zoo, has tested positive for COVID-19.
“Nadia, a 4-year-old female Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo, has tested positive for COVID-19. She, her sister Azul, two Amur tigers, and three African lions had developed a dry cough,” said a statement from Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo. "The diagnosis was confirmed by USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Iowa 'out of an abundance of caution'.”
Thankfully, all the big cats are now said to be the mend. “Though they have experienced some decrease in appetite, the cats at the Bronx Zoo are otherwise doing well under veterinary care and are bright, alert, and interactive with their keepers,” the statement continues. “It is not known how this disease will develop in big cats since different species can react differently to novel infections, but we will continue to monitor them closely and anticipate full recoveries.”
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
Like many others around the world, the zoo has been closed for the past few weeks to restrict the spread of the virus.
As for whether or not other animals (such as cats and dogs) can spread or fall ill from coronavirus, a PDSA blog written by vets says that while a small number have tested positive, they've only displayed minor symptoms. The handy write-up also says that while it's still okay to keep pets during lockdown, it's important to be mindful of the possibility of the virus living in their fur.
"There is evidence that the virus can live on surfaces for some time... this could include your pet’s fur, so if you are showing any symptoms it’s important to minimise contact with your pet as much as possible," the blog says. "You should also maintain good hygiene practices, such as regularly washing your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water, especially after handling or feeding your pet. It’s always sensible to avoid letting your pet lick your face."
The PDSA also reminded pet owners to keep calm. "There is no need to give up or quarantine pets and we would urge owners not to panic. Pets can be a great source of comfort, and a daily dog walk (following the guidelines) will be a good thing for everyone’s physical and mental health."
The information in this story is accurate as of the publication date. While we are attempting to keep our content as up-to-date as possible, the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continues to develop rapidly, so it's possible that some information and recommendations may have changed since publishing. For any concerns and latest advice, visit the World Health Organisation. If you're in the UK, the National Health Service can also provide useful information and support, while US users can contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
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