Eleven lions at Denver Zoo test positive for Covid after keepers saw them coughing and sneezing

Outbreak comes weeks after two lions tested positive for virus

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Tuesday 26 October 2021 22:26
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11 lions at Denver Zoo test positive for Covid

At least 11 African lions at Denver Zoo have tested positive for the delta variant of Covid-19 after keepers spotted them coughing and sneezing , officials have confirmed.

The animals are aged between one and nine-years-old and none of them have been vaccinated against the virus, say zoo bosses.

“There have been a number of big cats to come down with COVID-19 at zoos throughout the country, including our two tigers, Yuri and Nikita,” said Brian Aucone, Senior Vice President for Life Sciences for the Zoo.

“Fortunately, the vast majority have fully recovered, and the upside is that there’s an established knowledge base for us to draw from to help treat our animals.

“We’ve been in touch with other zoos that have also recently managed COVID cases in their big cats to inform the care we’re providing.”

Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Fort Collins conducted swab tests of the lions.

The results were also confirmed positive by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories.

“Animal care and veterinarians describe their symptoms as relatively mild at this point, and are closely monitoring and treating the lions individually as needed,” zoo officials said in a statement.

Officials say it is not clear how the animals contracted the virus.

“It could be somebody that was asymptomatic, and we just never knew. It’s a bit of a mystery how they contracted it,” said Mr Aucone.

It comes just two weeks after a pair of tigers at the zoo tested positive for Covid-19.

The two 11-year-old Amur tigers, Yuri and Nikita, were the first animals at the zoo to be diagnosed with the virus.

“Our veterinarians are planning to vaccinate them along with the tigers as soon as more doses of the animal-specific Zoetis vaccine become available,” added the zoo.

The zoo said it has had several protective measures in place, including use of personal protective equipment, hygiene, cleaning, employee self-screening and health management.

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