September 17 (WNN) — Six African lions, one Sumatran tiger and two Amur tigers tested positive for COVID-19 this week at the Smithsonian National Zoo.
After veterinarians noticed symptoms in the big cats – including loss of appetite, coughing, sneezing and lethargy – stool samples were collected and tested positive.
“Final results are expected in the next few days,” the zoo said in a press release. “All the lions and tigers are being treated with anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea medication to reduce restlessness and appetite.”
Given the distance between cats and visitors, the zoo said the public was not at risk of infection.
Employees who came in contact with animals have been screened.
“There is no evidence to pinpoint the source of the infection,” the zoo said. “While it is possible that the infection was transmitted by an asymptomatic carrier, it has been standard practice for all animal care workers and essential care workers to wear masks indoors in all public and non-public areas.”
The zoo announced that a COVID-19 vaccine designed specifically for animals made by former Pzifer subsidiary Zoetis had been authorized by the US Department of Agriculture.
The zoo said that once the vaccine is available, the first round will be conducted to select susceptible species.
The Philadelphia Zoo began giving animals the Zoetis vaccine this week, starting with a lemur named Charlie. He was among 10 animals that received a shot, including four other ring-tailed lemurs, four western lowland gorillas and a Sumatran orangutan.
There have been documented cases of zoo animals becoming infected with the virus nationally. Gorillas, snow leopards and tigers all tested positive at the San Diego Zoo.