Nine large cats at the National Zoo are presumed to have tested positive for COVID-19

Nine large cats at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo are presumed to have tested positive for COVID-19.

The Washington, DC Zoo announced Friday that six African lions, a Sumatran tiger and Amur tiger may have contracted the disease and suffered from decreased appetite, coughing, sneezing and lethargy.

Stool samples of lions and tigers were collected and hypothetically tested positive, with final results expected in the coming days. Animal breeders treat cats with anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea medications as well as antibiotics for presumably secondary bacterial pneumonia.

The animals are monitored and do not need to stay indoors, although staff will manage the cats’ access to their outdoor habitats. The zoo said the public was not in danger due to the “large distance” between the animals and visitors.

The zoo said no other animals at the zoo showed any signs of infection.

The zoo said it requires the use of personal protective equipment, health self-examination of staff, and cleaning of those who access animal areas as part of COVID-19 safety measures.

The zoo investigated all employees who had been in close contact with the lions and tigers and found no evidence identifying the source of the infection. Although the infection could have been spread by an asymptomatic person, the zoo said all animal care workers should hide masks indoors in all public and non-public places.

The US Department of Agriculture has approved a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, designed specifically for zoo animals. The zoo said the vaccines will be given to susceptible species at the zoo and the Virginia Institute of Conservation Biology when they become available in the coming months.

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