One day after it was reported that a tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, there is concern that some animals could potentially become extinct if the virus spreads further into the animal kingdom.
The Daily Beast spoke with several experts about how animals can be a "reservoir" for viruses — and how those viruses can be passed to humans and then to other animals, where they can kill.
"Some very recent experimental work suggests SARS-CoV-2 can replicate in some domestic animals like ferrets and cats but not well in others like dogs, pigs, chickens, and ducks," Indiana University fellow Daniel Becker told The Daily Beast. SARS-CoV-2 is the scientific name for the COVID-19 virus that has spread to nearly every corner of the globe in recent months.
"However, it's unclear whether these species could transmit the virus to humans."
Gorilla Doctors executive director and chief veterinary officer Kirsten Gilardi told The Daily Beast that gorillas are particularly susceptible to a deadly respiratory virus because of how they live together.
"At this time, we cannot know if SARS CoV-2 would develop into COVID-19 disease in gorillas, or if the virus would clinically present in a similar way in gorillas," she said. "If it does, gorillas live in close family units with regular physical contact, so it is possible it could also spread quickly through a family group."
Gilardi added, "It is safest to assume that gorillas are susceptible to SARS CoV-2 and take the necessary precautions to prevent transmission from humans to gorillas."
Bronx Zoo officials said Sunday that a 4-year-old Malayan tiger there has the COVID-19 virus, believed to be the virus' first known infection in an animal in the U.S. A zoo employee is suspected of passing the illness to the animal.
Six other tigers and lions at the zoo also are suspected of contracting the virus.
According to a recent paper published by bioRxiv, cats can pass the virus to other cats via respiratory droplets — the same manner in which it spreads between humans.
Worldwide, nearly 1.3 million people have been sickened by the virus and more than 70,000 have died. The U.S. has around 338,000 confirmed cases and more than 9,600 deaths.
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