Representational Image
Representational Image

NEW YORK: Nadia, a 4-year-old female Malayan tiger at the popular Bronx Zoo in New York, has tested positive for coronavirus, probably infected by an asymptomatic employee, in what is believed to be the first known case of an animal infected with COVID-19 in the US, raising new questions about human-to-animal transmission of the deadly virus.

The tigress, her sister Azul, two Amur tigers and three African lions had developed a dry cough late last month with decrease in appetite, said the Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages the zoo.

Nadia, along with other big cats, is thought to have been infected by the zookeeper who has not been identified, the society said in a statement on Sunday, adding that all the animals are expected to recover.

"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 CNN quoted the zoo as saying.

"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," it said. The test result has stunned zoo officials.

The coronavirus, first detected in humans in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, is believed to have spread from animals to humans, and a handful of animals, including two dogs, have tested positive in Hong Kong.

No other animals at the zoo are showing symptoms. The World Organisation for Animal Health says studies are under way to understand the issue and urges anyone who has become sick to limit contact with pets. The zoo has been temporarily closed since March 16 to help slow the spread of the virus.

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