Seven more big cats at the Bronx Zoo have tested positive for the novel coronavirus after a tiger at the zoo contracted the virus, according to wildlife officials.
Officials say four more tigers and three African lions tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the zoo.
The animals were tested after the first cat -- a four year old Malayan tiger named Nadia -- developed a dry cough and loss of appetite in late March. Nadia's test results came back positive on April 5; all but one of the other cats that tested positive had symptoms at that time.
The zoo says that since the initial test earlier this month, the cats have recovered and are behaving and eating normally. Their coughing has also reduced greatly.
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Zoo officials say they think the cats were infected by an asymptomatic employee. The WCS says it has put in place preventative measures at its four zoos to make sure no other animals are exposed to COVID-19.
The announcement comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that two house cats in New York tested positive for the coronavirus. Both pets have mild symptoms and are expected to recover.
There have been a handful of reports outside the U.S. of pet dogs or cats becoming infected after close contact with contagious people, including a Hong Kong dog that tested positive for a low level of the pathogen in February and early March. Hong Kong agriculture authorities concluded that pet dogs and cats couldn’t pass the virus to human beings but could test positive if exposed by their owners.
The American Veterinary Medical Association and CDC have been recommending that out of an abundance of caution, people ill with the coronavirus should limit contact with animals — advice that the veterinary group reiterated after learning of the tiger's test result.