New Delhi, Apr 07: In a first, Nadia, a 4-year-old female Malayan tiger at the US Zoo has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, probably infected by an asymptomatic employee.
The tigress, her sister Azul, two Amur tigers and three African lions had developed a dry cough late last month with decrease in appetite, said the Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages the zoo.
The coronavirus, first detected in humans in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, is believed to have spread from animals to humans, and a handful of animals, including two dogs, have tested positive in Hong Kong.
The pandemic has been driven by human-to-human transmission, but the infection of Nadia raises new questions about human-to-animal transmission.
So, can humans infect animals too?
Harbin Veterinary Research Institute, China, in a recent study highlighted the vulnerability of animals to the virus especially cats. The researchers have found out that cats are susceptible to contracting new coronavirus and can pass it on to other cats. The virus is transmitted in cats via respiratory droplets.
"We investigated the susceptibility of ferrets and animals in close contact with humans to SARS-CoV-2. We found that SARS-CoV-2 replicates poorly in dogs, pigs, chickens, and ducks, but efficiently in ferrets and cats," the researchers said.
While the study on a human to animal transmission is still ongoing if proven it could have a great impact on industries such as agriculture.
However, it is best to follow precautionary measures such as social distancing with your pet if one is tested positive, being careful while taking pets out for a walk and ensuring that they do not come close to those infected with the virus and keeping your pets in quarantine pet if necessary. Maintaining your personal hygiene by washing hands can also prevent the passing of the virus to pets.
Animals can reinfect humans
As of now, there is no evidence that animals play a role in the transmission of COVID-19 to people,' except for the initial outbreak at a food market in Wuhan, China. In addition, there is 'no evidence that any person has been infected with COVID-19 in the US by animals, including by pet dogs or cats.
The USDA said 'this is the first case of its kind' and 'further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19.' The World Organisation for Animal Health says studies are under way to understand the issue more and urges anyone who has become sick to limit contact with pets.
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However, the recent discovery has raised concerns over the risks of such animals becoming sources of human infections. These animals can reinfect human beings as virus carriers, analysts said, making a distinction between the tiger and earlier reports of pets of COVID-19 patients testing positive for the virus.
According to Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 1.2 million coronavirus cases across the world and 69,479 people have died so far.