Dogs wearing masks are seen in a stroller.
Noel Celis | AFP | Getty Images
World Health Organization officials said they’re investigating several cases where pets, and even a tiger, appear to have been infected with the coronavirus by their human caretakers.
“We’re aware of two dogs that have been infected in Hong Kong, a cat in Belgium and we’ve heard recently the reports of a tiger at the Bronx Zoo,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on the outbreak, said during a press conference. “There are several groups that are conducting investigations in animals to really understand how pets are infected.”
One study conducted on cats in Wuhan found that the pets could be infected with the coronavirus, Kerkhove said. She added that world officials don’t believe the animals are playing a role in transmission to humans, although humans can infect animals.
Kerkhove said the WHO is working closely with the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health to look more in-depth at the coronavirus in animals.
It’s “really important we remain respectful and kind” to the animals that are likely to be co-infected with humans, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said at the press conference on Wednesday.
“They’re beings in their own right, and they deserve to be treated with kindness and respect,” Ryan said. “They’re victims like the rest of us.”
On Sunday, officials said a 4-year-old tiger at the Bronx Zoo named Nadia tested positive for COVID-19 after developing a dry cough, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo said in a statement. The tiger that tested positive is believed to have become infected by a zoo employee. Nadia first began to show symptoms on March 27, the United States Department of Agriculture said.
In late February, a Hong Kong dog became the first reported animal that tested positive for the coronavirus. Kerkhove said that the results showed the dog had a low level of the virus that it likely picked up from its owner, who was infected. WHO officials have since said the dog is “doing well.”