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Coronavirus Update: Tiger At Bronx Zoo Positive For COVID-19, So Can Your Pets Get It?

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - A tiger at the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo has been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

It's the first known case of an animal being sick with the virus in the entire country.

CBS2's Kevin Rincon spoke with the chief veterinarian at the zoo.

Nadia is a 4-year-old Malayan tiger who in late March developed a dry cough.

Coronavirus tiger
Nadia, a Malayan tiger, has tested positive for coronavirus, the Bronx Zoo announced on April 5, 2020. (Photo: Bronx Zoo)

"Because of what is going on in New York City and around the world today, we certainly asked ourselves the question, could COVID be the cause of this?" said Dr. Paul Calle.

Dr. Calle is the head vet at the Bronx Zoo. He told Rincon they did a physical exam, x-rays, an ultrasound and collected blood samples all before testing for the coronavirus.

It turns out, that process is very similar to how humans get tested.

"We, in addition to getting the nasal swab, we got a swab from the back of her throat, and fluid from her lungs, and all of those samples were tested," Dr. Calle said.

Four other tigers and three lions at the zoo developed a cough, and some were even wheezing. But Nadia is the only animal who tested positive for COVID-19. Zoo officials believe she got it from an asymptomatic worker.

Dr. Calle says it's important people know the tiger did not get a human coronavirus test.


"We collected tiger samples and sent them to a veterinary diagnostic lab that's doing animal testing. You can't send a people COVID test to a vet lab, and you can't send an animal COVID test to a human lab. So we're not competing with New Yorkers for COVID testing. They're two independent testing systems," he said.

Dr. Calle said they had to sedate the tiger in order to actually complete that testing.

Rincon asked if people should be worried about their pets.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

"To date, there's no evidence that any person has been infected by their pets, and the few reports there are of test positive in animals, either the animal was never sick, or it's not clear the animal was sick from COVID. And when you look at this global pandemic going on for months, sweeping across the globe, if any animal was significantly being affected and being sick, people would know it," Dr. Calle said.

There are a number of major research labs that have been looking into this question, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which, for now, say pets can not get the coronavirus.

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