‘Coughing and sneezing’ lions quarantined after catching Covid in a New Orleans zoo

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According to a statement released by Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, Louisiana, on Wednesday, three out of its six lions have contracted COVID-19. The zoo has suggested that an asymptomatic employee was probably contagious and infected some of the lions they were looking after.

However, all employees were asked to get vaccinated and wear N95 or KN95 masks at work, meaning that infection remains possible even though safety measures were in place.

Arnold, an adult male, Asani, a yearling male, and Kali, an adult female, tested positive after the zookeepers noticed they were coughing and showing nasal discharge.

Nasal and faecal samples for three symptomatic lions were collected and tested at the Louisiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (LADDL) in Baton Rouge, confirming the presence of SARS-CoV-2.

They are currently isolated with the park’s three other lions (soon to be tested) and have only shown mild symptoms.

Bob MacLean, a Senior Veterinarian at the zoo, told WDSU News: “All lions continue to have a normal appetite and appear to be doing well.

“They are showing few symptoms other than coughing, sneezing, and nasal discharge.

“They are currently being quarantined in their habitat.

“Veterinarians are monitoring all six lions closely and will treat any serious symptoms as they may arise.

“Audubon’s veterinary and husbandry teams are skilled and dedicated professionals who work tirelessly to ensure the well-being of the animals in our care.”

He added that all symptoms had been mild and that the lions had required no medication.

Mr MacLean also said: “We are prepared to start treatments if signs or animal comfort warrant.

“Audubon Zoo has always had biosecurity protocols in place and adopted heightened protocols around susceptible animals at the onset of the pandemic last year.”

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The official statement from the zoo says visitors should not be afraid of catching COVID-19 from animals.

Gary A. Balsamo, the State Public Health Veterinarian & Assistant State Epidemiologist, told AP: “The lions are always separated from the public by at least six feet, and that distance has recently been increased to ensure no risk to the public.”

Vaccines have been created for animals as Audubon’s gorillas and orangutans were vaccinated in October.

However, the zoo said the company making the animal vaccine against COVID-19 has not yet sent doses for their big cats and mustelids such as otters.

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