KNOXVILLE — Three tigers at a Tennessee zoo are in quarantine after one tested positive for the new coronavirus, according to a Friday news release from Zoo Knoxville.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s national veterinary lab confirmed the positive test for Bashir, an 11-year-old male Malayan tiger, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
Two other tigers, 11-year-old male Tanvir and 6-year-old female Arya, are presumed positive while their tests are being processed. All three animals have experienced mild coughing, lethargy and decreased appetite.
Zoo staff are working with animal and human health agencies in Tennessee to determine the source of the COVID-19 infection, but the tigers are presumed to have picked up the virus from an asymptomatic staff member working in close proximity to them, according to the news release.
Meanwhile, the tigers have been enrolled in a research study at Tufts University in Massachusetts on the coronavirus’s transmission between humans and animals. Researchers there are investigating whether animals can transmit the virus to other animals, if it causes disease in some animals, and if it needs to mutate in order to infect different species.
“Based on limited information available to date, the risk of animals, including these tigers, spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to people is low,” the release said.
The University of Tennessee veterinary school is taking care of the tigers as they recover, and they are required to quarantine just like humans. The tigers will be released from isolation once they have no symptoms for 72 hours and either 14 days have passed since their last positive test or they have negative results on all diagnostic tests.
No other animals at the zoo are showing signs of sickness.