Cleveland Metroparks Zoo takes added steps after NY tiger tests for COVID-19

Coronavirus
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CLEVELAND (WJW)– A tiger at the Bronx Zoo is doing well after becoming the first known animal in the United States to test positive for coronavirus. 

As a precaution, staff at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo are taking extra steps to ensure the safety of the animals.

“We’re expanding our PPE, our use of face masks and things like that to other species,” said zoo director Dr. Chris Kuhar.

The 4-year-old female Malayan tiger in New York recently tested positive. Zoo officials said they believe an asymptomatic caretaker gave it to the animal, in the first case of human-to-animal transmission.

“It is a little surprising. We’ve seen very few interactions in terms of domestics and things like that, given the number of tests that are out there and how widespread the virus is, you would think that we would have seen a lot more exposures,” said Dr. Kuhar, who is also board chairman of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

“We know that COVID viruses affect some other species as well… Bats, things like mustelas, like ferrets and things like that. So we’re putting those procedures in place for those animals as well…Now, we’re expanding that to big cats as well, to try and make sure we protect those animals and we protect those staff,” he said.

Many people may wonder if a tiger can test positive for the coronavirus, what about your cat or dog at home?

“There have been two domestic dogs that have tested positive, and that’s in the entire world. So that’s a really small number… Is that a false positive, is that a bad test? I don’t know,” Kuhar said.

Still, he said, according to the USDA, there is no evidence the coronavirus can be transferred from animals to humans.

“When you think about how widespread the virus is, and the number of pets that are out there in this world. If there was an easy transmission, you would expect to see a lot more cases, we haven’t seen that,” he said.

Kuhar also said as medical experts learn more about the virus, they will get a better idea of how it affects different animals.

“If you have symptoms or you’ve got a positive test, you should probably quarantine yourself away from your pets as well,” Kuhar said.

Several other tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo are also being monitored for mild symptoms of a respiratory illness, but it’s unclear whether they also have COVID-19.

All of the animals are expected to recover.

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