WASHINGTON – Nine big cats at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo are being treated for coronavirus, attraction officials confirmed Friday.
According to WTOP, animal handlers at the zoo observed coughing, sneezing, decreased appetites and lethargy among several lions and tigers one week ago, and fecal samples collected from the felines have tested presumptive positive for COVID-19.
“The tigers are less affected than the lions, showing fewer symptoms. The varying degrees of symptoms have us watching all of the animals very carefully,” zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson told the TV station.
“We’re being as positive as possible,” she added.
Final test results are not expected for several days, as fecal samples require a second test be conducted at a national lab, WTOP reported.
The ailing cats include six African lions, two Amur tigers and a Sumatran tiger, USA Today reported.
“All lions and tigers are being treated with anti-inflammatories and anti-nausea medication to address discomfort and decreased appetite. In addition, all are being treated with antibiotics for presumptive secondary bacterial pneumonia. They remain under close observation,” the zoo stated on its website.
According to USA Today, the public is not considered at risk because of the required social distance separating zoo visitors and animals. Meanwhile, no other animals have tested positive for COVID-19 to date at the facility, and an internal investigation has not yet determined the source of the virus outbreak.
Zoo officials also confirmed to WTOP that the first round of the Zoetis coronavirus vaccine, formulated specifically for zoo animals, will be administered to select animals at the zoo when it becomes available in the coming months.
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