On Friday, I did a blog post offering some context on the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic and its relationship to the environmental challenges humanity is currently facing.
As was noted in the post, COVID-19 is part of the coronavirus family which exists in mammals and birds. If the right conditions are present, these viruses, along with many other viruses and bacteria that can cause serious illness, can transfer from animals to humans.
The official term for that zoonotic. Just as humans can fall ill from contact with infected animals, viruses that cause illness in humans can transfer to animals. And in recent days, we’ve seen indications that COVID-19 may be doing just that.
On Sunday, it was reported that a Malayan tiger at the New York Zoo had tested positive for the virus. Other tigers and lions at the zoo are also showing signs of illness.
In Uganda, officials have closed several national parks where endangered mountain gorillas live to limit the possibility of them coming in contact with infected humans and falling ill themselves.
The exact vulnerability of different animal species to the COVID-19 virus, including domestic pets and livestock, isn’t known yet. Neither is it clear whether an animal that may be infected with the virus can subsequently transfer it to a human.
You can find more information on the animal dimension of COVID-19 on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. One recommendation on the website is that people who are in close contact with animals practice good hygiene, and if cold and flu-like symptoms are present that physical-distancing guidelines be observed.