USDA: Coronavirus transmitted to tiger in New York zoo

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories has confirmed a case of COVID-19 in a tiger, the first such case of human-to-animal transmission of the coronavirus.

According to a news release from the Wildlife Conservation Society, a 4-year-old Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo contracted the virus. It is believed the tiger was infected by a zoo employee who was asymptomatic but was shedding the virus.

The Wildlife Conservation Society said in all, four tigers — which includes the one that tested positive for the virus — and three lions were all exhibiting symptoms of respiratory illness. Only one of the cats was tested because collecting a sample required general anesthesia, the USDA said.

The zoo has been closed to the public since mid-March, and the first tiger started showing symptoms on March 27. All of the cats are expected to recover.

This is the first documented case of a person giving COVID-19 to an animal, according to the USDA. It’s unclear how other animals might be affected by coming in contact with the novel coronavirus.

The USDA advises anyone who thinks their animal might have the virus to:

  • Call your veterinary clinic with any questions about your animal’s health.
  • Call ahead to make sure your veterinary clinic can make arrangements for an in-person visit.
  • Tell your veterinarian if your animal was exposed to someone with COVID-19 and if your animal is showing symptoms of the illness.

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