Information about the Bronx Zoo Malayan Tiger
Recent news of the first documented case of animal COVID-19 in the US has received notable attention, not only because it is the first, but also because of the species in which it was diagnosed, a Malayan tiger.
This tiger, which lives at the Bronx Zoo in New York City, first developed a mild cough on March, 27th, and was ultimately tested on April 5th after tests for more well documented causes of cough in tigers were negative. Several other wild cats at the zoo, including other Malayan tigers and lions, have also developed mild signs of respiratory disease and are being monitored closely by veterinary staff at the zoo.
The Animal Health Diagnostic Center (AHDC) at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine was one of two laboratories that verified the infection using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology to identify genetic evidence of SARS-Cov-2 virus in samples taken from the oral and nasal cavities and the trachea of the affected tiger. Specialists from the AHDC point out that the test used was developed specifically for use in animals, and that this diagnosis did not require the use of tests developed for humans, which are currently in short supply.
It is presumed that this tiger was infected by one of the animal handlers working at the zoo, and local and regional health officials are currently investigating the origin of this infection in the interest of both protecting other exotic animals at the zoo and that of public health. While some cat species do appear to be susceptible to SARS-Cov-2 infection, there is currently no evidence that cats of any species can transmit the virus to people.