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Tiger's COVID-19 Diagnosis Leaves Many Fearing Pets Are at Risk

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A 4-year-old tiger inside New York City’s Bronx Zoo has tested positive for COVID-19

The tiger, named Nadia, was tested after it began showing symptoms, including a dry cough similar to what people stricken with the coronavirus report having. Now, zoo officials believe that a total of four tigers and three lions at the Bronx Zoo are infected. 

The Bronx Zoo, which is one of the largest zoos in the world, has been closed since March 16. A small staff remain on the job. Officials believe that the tiger may have contracted COVID-19 from an employee. 

The Bronx Zoo said in a statement that the big cats have “experienced some decrease in appetite, [but] the cats are otherwise doing well ... and are bright, alert and interactive with their keepers. It is not known how this disease will develop in big cats since different species can react differently to novel infections, but we will continue to monitor them closely and anticipate full recoveries.”

Many were outraged that Nadia the tiger was able to get a test while people have had difficulty accessing them, but the zoo has said the test given to Nadia was “not the same test as used for people.”

Zoo officials also say the big cats who have had a dry cough are expected to survive. Only one tiger was tested because it involves putting the animal under anesthesia. Veterinarians are assuming all cats that Nadia has interacted with are also infected. 

If a tiger can get coronavirus, many fear domestic cats could also contract the illness. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture noted on its website that "at this time, there is no evidence to suggest that any animals, including pets or livestock, can spread COVID-19 infection to people."

It's not clear if felines can contract the illness, or if the can spread it to people.

"To date, CDC has not received any reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States," the CDC said. "Pets have other types of coronaviruses that can make them sick, like canine and feline coronaviruses. These other coronaviruses cannot infect people and are not related to the current COVID-19 outbreak."

Still, experts say if you are sick, you should also stay away from your pet. 

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