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Tiger at New York’s Bronx Zoo gets Coronavirus, Indian zoos on alert

Indian zoos have been advised to be on high alert after a tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York tested positive for COVID-19.

Apr 6, 2020 13:10 IST
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A tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York has tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the first confirmed case of human-to-animal transmission of the virus in the United States. The tiger reportedly contracted the virus from the caretaker who was asymptomatic. 

The central Zoo Authority of India has advised all Indian zoos to stay on high alert and monitor animals 24x7 through CCTV to look for any symptoms or abnormal behaviour among the animals as a precautionary measure. 

The Malayan tiger named Nadia was detected to have the virus when she along with her sister Azul and two other Amur tigers and three African lions developed dry coughs. The animals are expected to fully recover soon, said the Wildlife Conservation Society that runs the city’s zoos. 

The four-year-old tiger was tested out of an abundance of caution, the society stated and added saying that any knowledge gained about COVID-19 will contribute to the world's continuing understanding of this novel coronavirus. 

Wildlife Conservation Society’s statement 

The Wildlife Conservation Society in a statement assured that the tigers at the Bronx Zoo are doing well under veterinary care and though their appetite has decreased, they are still bright, alert and interactive with their caretakers. 

The society further added saying that it is not known how the disease will develop in big cats since different species can react differently to novel infections. But they will continue to monitor them closely and anticipate full recoveries. 

Can COVID-19 be transmitted from animals to humans?

With the Bronx zoo tiger testing positive for COVID-19, concerns have again risen over the possibility of the infection being transmitted from animals to humans. However, the zoo has emphasised that there is no evidence that animals play a role in transmitting COVID-19 to people other than the initial incidence at the Wuhan market. The zoo said that there is no evidence that any person in the US has been infected with COVID-19 through animals including pet dogs and cats. 

The US Department of Agriculture also highlighted on its website there had not been reports of pets or other animals in the United States falling ill due to coronavirus before Nadia’s case. However, the department still recommended that those are who are infected with COVID-19 should limit their contact with animals until more information is known about the virus.

Other such cases

Recently, a pet cat was reported to have contracted the novel coronavirus in Belgium. Hong Kong had also reported that two dogs had been tested positive for COVID-19. All these animals are believed to have contracted the virus from the people they live with.
 
Background

All the four zoos and aquarium in New York have been closed since March 16. The Bronx zoo stated that preventive measures were put in place for caretakers as well as all cats in the city's zoos. The death toll in New York due to novel coronavirus has climbed to over 4,000.

The virus reportedly originated from a wild animal market in China’s Wuhan as per Chinese disease control officials and now it has infected over 1 million people across the globe. Most of the countries are currently on complete lockdown to combat the rapid spread of the infection.

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