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8 big cats at Saint Louis Zoo test positive for COVID-19

An animal care team at the Saint Louis Zoo is keeping a close eye on eight big cats after they...
An animal care team at the Saint Louis Zoo is keeping a close eye on eight big cats after they recently tested positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)(Associated Press)
Published: Nov. 12, 2021 at 9:29 AM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KFVS) - An animal care team at the Saint Louis Zoo is keeping a close eye on eight big cats after they recently tested positive for COVID-19.

The zoo said two African lions, two snow leopards, two jaguars, an Amur tiger and a puma have come down with the virus.

All eight are expected to fully recover.

The big cats reportedly showed no signs of illness, but a few did display a decreased appetite and less activity for a short period of time.

The zoo said some of the animals developed respiratory signs for a couple of days, which included ocular and nasal discharge and a cough.

They believe the big cats were likely exposed to COVID-19 prior to getting their second vaccine dose for animals between September 30 and October 26.

“The vaccine, even partial immunization, likely helped our cats be able to mount a stronger immune response, and show fewer signs of illness for a shorter period of time than they would have if not previously vaccinated,” said Saint Louis Zoo Director of Animal Health Dr. Sathya Chinnadurai.

According to the zoo, an investigation into how the big cats came down with the virus is inconclusive.

The zoo said it is possible the illness was transmitted by an asymptomatic carrier, but all zoo staff are required to be vaccinated and follow strict COVID-19 protocols.

The zoo also reports no other animals are showing signs of infection.

It’s believed the virus is isolated only to the Big Cat Country area.

The zoo wants to assure guests they can feel safe when visiting this area since all of the animals are vaccinated, they are only visible in an outdoor setting and there is a significant distance between the guests and animals.

“The health, well-being and safety of Zoo staff, animals and guests remains our number one priority,” said Luis Padilla, DVM, Dipl. ACZM, Vice President of Animal Collections, Saint Louis Zoo. “We are very appreciative of all the colleagues and scientists who continue to study this virus, share the knowledge and have developed vaccines to keep our animals healthy as we navigate this pandemic. Now more than ever, we recognize that animal health, human health and the health of our environment are interdependent on each other.”

So far, 50 animals at the zoo have received both COVID-19 vaccine doses for animals and another 42 have received one dose.

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