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Big cats likely sick with COVID-19 at National Zoo in Washington

Lions and tigers and COVID — oh my!

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Nine big cats at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington have tested “presumptive positive” for COVID-19, the zoo announced on Friday.

Six African lions, a Sumatran tiger and two Amur tigers are being treated for the virus by zoo staff after displaying symptoms of the virus last week.

The animals appeared lethargic and were observed coughing, sneezing and not finishing meals, the zoo said.

A test on the cats’ feces determined the “presumptive positive” test result. Final results are expected in the coming days while treatment has begun.

Zookeepers noted the lions and tigers likely affected with COVID-19 appeared lethargic and were not finishing their meals.
Smithsonian National Zoo

“All lions and tigers are being treated with anti-inflammatories and anti-nausea medication to address discomfort and decreased appetite,” the zoo said in a statement on Friday. “In addition, all are being treated with antibiotics for presumptive secondary bacterial pneumonia.”

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They remain under the close watch and care of the zoo’s staff in their recovery.

The public is not at risk of infection to the tigers given the distance between animals and visitors. 

Smithsonian Zoo
The zoo stated the lions and tigers were being treated with anti-inflammatories and anti-nausea medication.

No other animals at the zoo have showed signs of infection, the zoo confirmed.

The zoo said that it has conducted an investigation into all staff that had interacted with the lions and tigers, however they’ve been unable to determined the source of the infection.

The zoo said that its protocol for all animal care and other essential staff to wear masks while indoors in all public and non-public areas of the zoo.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved a special coronavirus vaccine for susceptible zoo animals created by Zoetis. According to the Smithsonian, the first round of vaccinations will be administered to certain animals at the zoo and Conservation Biology institute in Virginia when it is available in the coming months.

The zoo has been unable to confirm where the animals could have contracted the virus from following their own investigation into the matter.
Smithsonian Institution

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