WILL IT SPREAD?
by Sharon Rondeau
(Apr. 5, 2020) — Just after 4:30 p.m. EDT, the USDA issued an advisory reporting that its National Veterinary Services Laboratories “has confirmed SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans)” in a tiger at a “New York” zoo.
“This is the first instance of a tiger being infected with COVID-19. Samples from this tiger were taken and tested after several lions and tigers at the zoo showed symptoms of respiratory illness,” the bulletin states.
The zoo was closed to the public in mid-March, the advisory continues, but the agency has reason to believe that a COVID-19-positive employee “was actively shedding virus” at the time the “large cats” were infected.
The tiger was noted to be in distress on March 27, the advisory states. All of the affected animals are expected to recover.
The Wildlife Conservation Society Newsroom also reported the development on Sunday and identified the animal’s place of residence as the Bronx Zoo. The WCS operates the Bronx Zoo, three other zoos and an aquarium, its press release says.
“Our cats were infected by a person caring for them who was asymptomatically infected with the virus or before that person developed symptoms. Appropriate preventive measures are now in place for all staff who are caring for” the large felines, the WCS further reported.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) on Saturday, two dogs in Hong Kong and two cats, one in Belgium and the other in Hong Kong, “have been reported to have been infected with SARS-CoV-2” but that “other dogs and cats also living with infected people remain uninfected.”
“To date the CDC has not received any reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States,” the informational release states. However, it further advised:
Out of an abundance of caution, it is recommended that those ill with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. When possible, have another member of your household take care of walking, feeding, and playing with your pet. If you have a service animal or you must care for your pet, don’t share food, kiss, or hug them, and wash your hands before and after any contact with them.
In an informational page “last reviewed March 27, 2020,” the CDC reported, “CDC is aware of a very small number of pets outside the United States reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 after close contact with people with COVID-19. To date, there is no evidence that pets can spread the virus to other animals or people. CDC is working with human and animal health partners to monitor this situation and will continue to provide updates as information becomes available. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19.”
It also cautioned, “If you are sick with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed), you should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just like you would around other people. Although there have been no reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. This can help ensure both you and your animals stay healthy.”
The USDA reiterated the CDC’s advice.
To the question, “Can people give this virus to animals and, if so, what animals are at risk?” the USDA responded:
This is the first case of its kind. We are still learning about this new coronavirus and how it spreads. This case suggests that a zoo employee spread the virus to the tiger. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19. State animal and public health officials will continue to work closely with USDA and CDC to monitor this situation and will conduct additional testing if it is warranted.