KUALA LUMPUR, April 6 — Health authorities today encouraged Malaysians to avoid close contact with animals, after a Malayan tiger in a US zoo tested positive for Covid-19.
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said coronaviruses are commonly found in animals, while seven of those viruses have infected humans, including Covid-19, SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).
“There’s a possibility when you have close contact with animals, if animals [are] infected with virus, that virus can infect a human being, for example, coronavirus,” Dr Noor Hisham told a press conference.
“So that is something we need to take precaution, take necessary precaution to protect ourselves, maintain good personal hygiene, otherwise we can become the victim as well.”
When asked if Covid-19 patients could transmit the coronavirus to their pets, Dr Noor Hisham said a veterinarian would have to examine the animal first.
BBC reported that a four-year-old female Malayan tiger, as well as six other tigers and lions, at the Bronx Zoo in New York City were believed to have been infected by an asymptomatic zoo keeper. The Malayan tiger named Nadia, which tested positive for Covid-19, was believed to be the US’ first known case of an animal infected with coronavirus, according to the BBC.
The zoo reportedly said the animals were expected to make a full recovery, as they remained bright, alert and interactive with their keepers despite showing poorer appetite.
According to BBC, experts say there is no proof that pets can get sick from Covid-19 or spread the disease, despite sporadic anecdotes of pets testing positive for coronavirus.
Update at 8:15pm:
Dr Noor Hisham said if pet owners can’t keep a distance from their pets, it was important to keep good hygiene at all times, including when in contact with furry loved ones and other animals.
“Wash your hands before and after handling them. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health (MOH) will work closely with the Department of Veterinary (DVS) for further advice on this matter.”