A total of eight tigers contracted the H5N1 avian influenza virus at a Chinese zoo, according to a report from the FAO Emergency Prevention System (EMPRES) this month.

Image/John and Karen Hollingsworth, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Image/John and Karen Hollingsworth, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The tigers are housed at Nanning City zoo in Guangxzi Province. The report notes that two of the tigers perished as a result of the lethal bird flu. H5N1 HPAI was confirmed by National authorities.

This is not the first time H5N1 avian influenza has been reported in the large cat. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) Global Alert and Response from 2006 it states:

Several published studies have demonstrated H5N1 infection in large cats kept in captivity. In December 2003, two tigers and two leopards, fed on fresh chicken carcasses, died unexpectedly at a zoo in Thailand. Subsequent investigation identified H5N1 in tissue samples.

In February 2004, the virus was detected in a clouded leopard that died at a zoo near Bangkok. A white tiger died from infection with the virus at the same zoo in March 2004.

In October 2004, captive tigers fed on fresh chicken carcasses began dying in large numbers at a zoo in Thailand. Altogether 147 tigers out of 441 died of infection or were euthanized. Subsequent investigation determined that at least some tiger-to-tiger transmission of the virus occurred.