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Akron Zoo lions test positive for COVID-19: What zoo officials are saying

Exposure is believed to be from a staff member who tested positive for COVID-19.
Credit: Akron Zoo / Facebook
Akron Zoo lion.

AKRON, Ohio — The Akron Zoo is monitoring their five African lions after each received a presumptive positive test for COVID-19.

“Our lion care team recently noticed some mild coughing, sneezing and decreased appetite in a few of the lions,” Akron Zoo officials said in a Facebook post Thursday morning. “After the onset of symptoms, fecal samples were collected and sent to the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, where the lions tested presumptive positive.”

The zoo is home to five lions – including males Tamarr and Donovan and females Mandisa, Kataba and Msinga. The lions will stay in their habitat at the zoo and treated for any symptoms.

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The African lions here at the Akron Zoo have received presumptive positive test results for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that...

Posted by Akron Zoo on Thursday, September 30, 2021

“Out of an abundance of caution, we also sent fecal samples for testing of all the big cats, including the Sumatran tigers, snow leopards and jaguar,” zoo officials said. “These samples tested negative, however we will continue to closely monitor them for any clinical signs of COVID-19.”

Zoo officials said the lions pose no threat of transmission to visitors.

“There is currently no data showing that zoo animals have transmitted the virus to humans, unlike the documented transmission of humans to animals,” Akron Zoo officials noted. “Additionally, our habitat design and use of glass throughout the park protects the animals and guests from exposure to each other while in their habitats.”

Exposure is believed to be from a staff member who tested positive for COVID-19, according to zoo officials.

“As a result, we will be further enhancing PPE in animal care areas.”

Additionally, the Akron Zoo is authorized to use the Zoetis COVID-19 investigational vaccine that was developed for animals.

“Other zoos throughout North America have begun administering the vaccine to its vulnerable animals,” zoo officials said. “The vaccine very recently arrived at the Akron Zoo, and plans are underway to vaccinate susceptible animals. The lions will be included in vaccinations, upon their recovery. Use of the COVID-19 vaccine from Zoetis has been authorized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Ohio state veterinarian.”

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Editor's note: Video in the player above was originally published in an unrelated zoo story on Feb. 12, 2021.