A tiger in the Bronx Zoo has reportedly tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and it is believed to be the first case of a tiger being infected by the deadly and fast-spreading virus.
As the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory reported, the tiger was tested for the virus after several big cats in the New York City zoo began to show signs of a respiratory illness, and the test came back positive. The USDA announced on Sunday that the zoo has been closed since the middle of March, but they believe that the big cats became sick after being exposed to a zoo employee actively shedding the virus while being asymptomatic.
The USDA added that there is no evidence that other animals in the zoo are showing respiratory symptoms, and the tiger and other big cats are expected to recover.
Animal experts had already expressed fear at the novel coronavirus infecting other primates and have taken steps to protect them. As The Inquisitr reported, wildlife officials across Africa have moved to restrict human access to mountain gorillas, noting that the vulnerable species can be severely affected by respiratory illnesses.
As ABC News reported, visitors have been barred from Virunga National Park in Congo, and other countries have moved to restrict access to national parks where these gorillas live. Wildlife experts said they believe that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease COVID-19 in humans, can also be transmitted to these animals. They are hoping to protect them.
“Mountain gorillas are prone to some respiratory illnesses that afflict humans. A common cold can kill a gorilla, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature, one reason why tourists tracking gorillas are not normally permitted to get too close,” the report noted.
The USDA noted after the infection of the Bronx Zoo tiger that people who are infected with the coronavirus should avoid contact with animals in an abundance of caution, even though there is not yet definitive evidence that it can be transferred to pets.
“Although there have not been reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus,” the agency said in a statement. “If a sick person must care for a pet or be around animals, they should wash their hands before and after the interaction.”