A tiger at Bronx Zoo in New York has tested positive for the coronavirus, CBS New York reported on Sunday. This is the first case of an animal being found infected with the virus in the United States.

The four-year-old Malayan tiger, named Nadia, tested positive for the virus on Sunday. Nadia, her sister Azul, two Amur tigers, and three African lions had developed a dry cough. Subsequently, they were tested for Covid-19, and Nadia was found positive. The zoo has been closed for visitors since March 16 due to the coronavirus epidemic in the United States.

“We tested the cat out of an abundance of caution and will ensure any knowledge we gain about Covid-19 will contribute to the world’s continuing understanding of this novel coronavirus,” Bronx Zoo Executive Director of Communications Max Pulsinelli said.

Dr Paul Calle, the chief veterinarian at the zoo, said that the testing was performed in a veterinary school laboratory, and was not similar to the one performed on humans. “You cannot send human samples to the veterinary laboratory, and you cannot send animal tests to the human laboratories, so there is no competition for testing between these very different situations,” Dr Calle said.

Pulsinelli said the tiger was infected by a person caring for the zoo animals, who was asymptomatic or developed symptoms after infecting Nadia. “Appropriate preventive measures are now in place for all staff who are caring for them,” he said.

The United States Department of Agriculture issued a statement that people who are infected should keep their distance from animals. “Although there have not been reports of pets becoming sick with Covid-19 in the United States, it is still recommended that people sick with Covid-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus,” it said.

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It is believed that the virus originated from a seafood market in Wuhan in Hubei province of China. In late March, a pet cat was discovered infected with the novel coronavirus in Belgium. Earlier, two dogs in Hong Kong had tested positive for the disease. All these animals were infected by people they had come in contact with.

There have been over 3,37,000 cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States, according to an estimate by Johns Hopkins University. This is the highest number for any country in the world. New York state has been the worst hit, with over 1,20,000 cases. Over 12,70,000 people have been infected worldwide.