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Tiger at NYC Bronx Zoo positive for virus

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A tiger at New York's Bronx Zoo has tested positive for the new coronavirus, in what is believed to be the first known infection in an animal in the US or a tiger anywhere.

The four-year-old Malayan tiger, and six other tigers and lions that have also fallen ill, are believed to have been infected by a zoo employee, the US Department of Agriculture said.

The first animal started showing symptoms March 27, and all are expected to recover, said the zoo, which has been closed to the public since March 16.

"We tested the cat out of an abundance of caution" and aim to "contribute to the world's continuing understanding of this novel coronavirus," said Dr. Paul Calle, the zoo's chief veterinarian.

The finding raises new questions about transmission of the virus in animals. The USDA says there are no known cases of the virus in US pets or livestock.

"It's important to assure pet owners and animal owners that at this time there isn't any evidence that they can spread the virus," said Dr. Jane Rooney, a veterinarian and a USDA official.

The coronavirus outbreaks around the world are driven by person-to-person transmission, experts say.

There have been reports of a small number of pets outside the United States becoming infected after close contact with contagious people, including a Hong Kong dog that tested positive for a low level of the pathogen in February and early March.

Some researchers have been trying to understand the susceptibility of different animal species to the virus, and to determine how it spreads among animals, according to the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health.

© AP 2020