Knoxville, TN (WSMV) — A tiger at Zoo Knoxville has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the same virus that causes COVID-19 in humans, according to zoo officials.
Malayan tigers Arya, Bashir and Tanvir were experiencing “mild coughing, lethargy and decrease in appetite.” Zoo officials said the animals were tested for “a range of potential causes, including SARS-CoV-2.”
Zoo officials said test results confirmed 11-year-old male Bashir tested positive. Officials added confirmatory testing for Arya and Tanvir is in process, but “they are presumed positive.”
The tigers will be “released from quarantine once they are symptom free for 72 hours and either all diagnostic tests are negative, or 14 days have passed since the last positive test in accordance with CDC guidelines.”
A veterinary team from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine is taking care of the three tigers. Zoo officials said Arya, Bashir and Tanvir are “alert, active and no longer exhibiting symptoms.”
Crews at Zoo Knoxville are working to determine the cause of the infection. Officials added “an asymptomatically infected staff member working in close proximity to the tigers when caring for them” could have led to the infection.
No other animals at Zoo Knoxville “have shown signs of illness,” officials said.
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. Zoo Knoxville’s tigers are participating in the Coronavirus Epidemiological Research and Surveillance (CoVERS) study, run by the Runstadler lab at Cummings School, which is studying SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 transmission between humans and animals. The CoVERS team is investigating which species can get this novel coronavirus, if animals can further transmit it to other animals, if the virus causes disease in some animals, and if the virus needs to mutate to infect different species.
Zoo Knoxville is continuing to follow safety protocols and all staff are following what was recommended by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Tennessee Pledge.