Yesterday, a 4-year-old female Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for SARSCoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans. In addition, three other tigers and three lions at that zoo developed the same symptoms, primarily a dry cough, but all are doing well and expected to recover.
Public health officials believe these large cats became sick after being exposed to a zoo employee who had the virus but was not yet showing symptoms. The tiger’s positive COVID-19 test, which is a different test than is used for humans, was confirmed by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories.
While staff at the Kansas City Zoo have already been taking precautions to prevent any potential spread of COVID-19, they have now implemented additional measures to ensure the health and safety of the animals, particularly cats. These include maintaining a distance of at least six feet from the cats, wearing masks when working with the cats, and continuing disinfecting protocols.
No animals are currently showing any signs of the illness, but zoo staff will continue to monitor the situation and adjust procedures as more information becomes available.
While the KCZoo has been closed to the public since March 18 to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the zoo’s staff has continued to provide high quality care for the animals each and every day, providing food, health care, and enrichment.
In order to protect the staff as well as the animals, employees have been split into smaller teams that alternate shifts in order to help prevent the spread of any illness. “We are incredibly proud of our staff at the Zoo, who are truly ‘essential’ to the well-being of more than 1,700 animals entrusted to our care,” says Randy Wisthoff, executive director and CEO. “These individuals put the animals’ needs first every day, and are an asset not only to our Zoo, but to our community, in these challenging times.”
For those wondering about their pets at home, the USDA has recommended that out of an abundance of caution, anyone sick with COVID-19 should restrict contact with animals, just as they would with other people. Although there have not been reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. If a sick person must care for a pet or be around animals, they should wash their hands before and after the interaction. At this time, there is no evidence to suggest that any animals, including pets or livestock, can spread COVID-19 infection to people.
To read the USDA’s full statement, visit https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/newsroom/news/sa_by_date/sa-2020/NY-zoo-covid-19