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

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ST. LOUIS – Eight big cats at the Saint Louis Zoo have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The zoo said the animals include two African lions, two snow leopards, two jaguars, one Amur tiger, and a puma. They are all being “closely monitored and a full recovery for all of the big cats is expected,” according to the zoo.

Most of the big cats showed no signs of illness. Some of them showed a decrease in their appetite and less activity for short periods of time. The zoo said other cats developed signs of respiratory issues, including ocular and nasal discharge and a cough.

“Right now we’re are providing support to a few of our animals and we are very optimistic that everyone will make a full recovery,” said Dr. Sathya Chinnadura, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACZM, Dipl. ACVAA, Dipl. ACAW, Director of Animal Health, Saint Louis Zoo.

The zoo has not been able to identify the source of the infection. They also said the virus has been isolated to Big Cat Country, and no other animals at the zoo are showing any signs of infection.

All of the cats at Big Cat Country received a two-dose series of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine specific for animals between Sept. 30 and Oct. 26, 2021, but were likely exposed prior to the second dose.

“As in humans, we would expect that full protection against this virus would not be developed until a few weeks after the second injection in a series,” Chinnadurai said.

Zoo officials said all the staffers are required to be vaccinated.

As of Thursday, 50 animals at the zoo have received both SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses specific for animals and another 42 have received one dose.

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