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Zoo Knoxville tigers enjoy the sunshine again after fully recovering from COVID-19 virus

The zoo said the tigers are out of isolation and enjoying the sunshine again after recovering from the COVID-19 virus.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Update (November 9, 2020): Three Zoo Knoxville tigers are enjoying the sunshine again after recovering from the COVID-19 virus.

Zoo Knoxville said its tigers Bashir, Arya and Tanvir were all released from isolation Monday and have fully recovered after catching the virus that causes COVID-19 in late October.

Original Story:

A tiger at Zoo Knoxville has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

The zoo announced its 11-year-old male Malayan tiger, Bashir, had been confirmed positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 by the USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratories.

Two other tigers, 6-year-old Arya and 11-year-old Tanvir, are also suspected to have the virus and are awaiting test results. The zoo said the three had mild coughing, lethargy, and loss of appetite. 

The zoo believes the three were infected by a staff member who had caught the virus but was asymptomatic.

"Zoo Knoxville is working with state and local animal and human health agencies to determine the source of the infection, which at this time is suspected to be an asymptomatically infected staff member working in close proximity to the tigers when caring for them," the zoo said.

The zoo said the three are in isolation and will be allowed out once they are symptom-free for 72 hours and either diagnostic tests come back negative or 14 days have passed. No other zoo animals have shown signs of illness.

A veterinary team from UT's College of Veterinary Medicine is caring for the three, and they are all active, alert and no longer exhibiting symptoms.

Credit: Zoo Knoxville
Staff with UT's College of Veterinary Medicine work to test a tiger for COVID-19.

This is not the first time a tiger has tested positive for the virus. Several at a New York zoo contracted the COVID-19 virus back in April.

"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 zoo said. "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."