The whole internet was shocked when a tiger at the Bronx Zoo, New York tested positive for the Corona Virus. Nadia, a Malayan Tiger is the first non-domesticated animal in the world to contract the virus, apart from the animal that started the infection. What does this mean to the scientific community and how has this changed our perception of the disease, read ahead to find out.
How Nadia got the Corona Virus
Nadia is a 4-year-old tiger, one of the many big cats of the Bronx Zoo in New York. The first symptoms Nadia portrayed were a dry cough and a loss of appetite. The tiger was then sedated and tested in an ambulance. Considering the large amount of COVID-19 cases in New York, the doctors thought they should check Nadia for the disease as she was already sedated. The samples of Nadia’s blood were sent to the New York State Diagnostic Laboratory at Cornell University and to the USDA-APHIS veterinary diagnostics lab in Ames, Iowa. A different testing method was implied to verify Nadia’s case and it did not provide competition to human testing. The results of the test were retrieved on 2nd April and Nadia was confirmed as the first animal to be infected with the COVID- 19.
The Bronx Zoo authorities said that the virus was transmitted to Nadia by one of her caretakers who was an asymptomatic transmitter of the virus. Along with Nadia, there are 6 other big cats in the zoo that have shown similar symptoms but to a much lesser extent. The team of doctors inspecting Nadia believed that there was no need to anesthetize all the other cats if it was not absolutely necessary.
What Does This Mean for Us
The transmission of the virus to animals could change the way we perceive the disease. The virus which was previously believed to possess only human to human transmission capabilities has now registered a case where a member of a large mammal species is affected. There could be two possible outcomes of this situation:
- The animals all across the world become potential carriers and transmitters of the disease. This could cause havoc across the planet. If the other species on the planet are even half as susceptible as human beings, the virus could spread massively and with dire consequences. A stray dog could get the virus from a person feeding it and transfer it to other stray dogs and pet dogs around it. These pet dogs would transfer the disease to their owners and so on. The transfer rate of the COVID-19 would shoot up rapidly. Scientists have already foreseen this threat. Apes all around the world have been kept in isolation as well, due to the large number of similarities they possess to the human anatomy making them less immune to respiratory diseases. Our perception of the Corona Virus would change completely as government authorities will have to struggle overtime to keep animals in quarantine as well.
- A more likely outcome is that the virus only permits a one-way transfer. There are a lot of examples to support this claim. A few domesticated pets were diagnosed with the virus that they obtained from their owners. The pets fraternized with other pets in the society but none of the other owners got the disease. This case is complicated but there are certainly better explanations to this scenario. Animals have always evolved with better respiratory systems when compared to humans. So, while it is possible for them to contract the disease from humans, their strong immune and respiratory systems inhibit the growth of the disease. Even the lions and tigers in Bronx Zoo showed only mild symptoms of the disease as by the time it was passed on to them by Nadia, the virus had grown weaker. Today, they are just slightly under the weather but are cooperating well with their caretakers. When compared to humans, even Nadia had milder symptoms. As of now the Malayan tiger is better and still under observation. The other big cats in the zoo such as the cheetahs have shown no symptoms of the disease. The origination of the virus from a wild animal in the Wuhan market is true but consumption of animals and contact with them lead to completely different circumstances.
The case of Nadia has given the scientific community around the world, a lot to learn. The Novel Corona Virus is something that is completely unknown to human beings and its transmission is still a mystery. Whether the virus can be transmitted through animals or not, it is still advised to stay away from animals if you have been tested positive. In these testing time, each and every preventive measure must be followed with utmost care and precaution.