The Smithsonian reports that all of the lions and tigers at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., have contracted COVID-19. While no other animals have tested positive, six African lions, a Sumatran tiger, and two Amur tigers all received positive tests after the fecal samples were examined. Final results are expected within the next few days. According to the National Zoo's Instagram account, these tests were taken last weekend after "animal keepers observed decreased appetites, coughing, sneezing and lethargy in several lions and tigers."
"All lions and tigers are being treated with anti-inflammatories and anti-nausea medication to address discomfort and decreased appetite," the post read. "In addition, all are being treated with antibiotics for presumptive secondary bacterial pneumonia. They remain under close observation and, because their condition does not require they remain inside, staff will manage the cats' access to their outdoor habitats." Additionally, they explained that the animals did not pose a threat of infection to zoo visitors.
"The health and safety of Smithsonian staff, animals and visitors is our number one priority," their statement continued. "The Zoo's existing COVID-19 protocols restrict behind-the-scenes access in all animal areas and require use of personal protective equipment, hygiene, cleaning, employee self-screening and health management. The Zoo's COVID safety and response protocols are in place and being strictly followed."
"The Zoo has conducted a thorough investigation of all staff that were in close proximity to the lions and tigers," they wrote.
There is no evidence to pinpoint the source of the infection. While it is possible the infection was transmitted by an asymptomatic carrier, it has been standard practice for all animal care staff and essential staff to mask indoors in all public and non-public areas. The health and vaccination status of employees is confidential medical information." The Zoo's statement also revealed that they would be administering "a SARS-COV-2 vaccine made specifically for zoo animals by Zoetis" to animals that had been deemed susceptible species" in the coming months.