A tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York City has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in people.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories, the big cat is thought to be the first tiger infected with the virus.
The tiger was tested for the virus after several of the zoo’s lions and tigers started showing signs of respiratory illness, according to the USDA. The agency expects all of the cats are expected to recover.
According to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which manages the zoo, the big cat is a 4-year-old Malayan tiger identified as Nadia. The zoo said that Nadia, her sister Azul, two Amur tigers, and three African lions, had developed a dry cough.
Since the animals must be put under general anesthesia to receive the test, the attending veterinarian decided not to test the other animals, according to the USDA.
USDA reports that, a zoo employee could have spread the virus to the big cats. The WCS said it has now put in place measures to protect cats from the infection at all of its zoos. The zoo has been temporarily closed since March 16 to help slow the spread of the virus.
“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,” the WCS said in a statement.
The USDA advises that people with COVID-19 should try to keep away from animals, including their pets, while they’re sick, and to wash their hands if they must care for a pet or be around animals.