DENVER (AP) – Two hyenas at the Denver Zoo tested positive for the coronavirus, the first confirmed cases among animals worldwide, a national veterinary laboratory said on Friday.
Samples from a variety of animals at the zoo, including the spotted hyena, were tested after several lions at the facility became sick, according to National Veterinary Services Laboratories. The hyena samples were suspected of testing positive in a Colorado State University laboratory, and the cases were confirmed by the national laboratory.
In addition to the two hyenas, 11 lions and two tigers tested positive for the virus in the zoo.
“Hyenas are known to be tough, resilient animals that are known to be very tolerant of anthrax, rabies and distemper. They are otherwise healthy and are expected to recover fully, “the zoo said in a statement.
Zoo officials said the hyenas – 22-year-old Ngozi and 23-year-old Kibo – had mild symptoms, including mild lethargy, some nasal discharge and the occasional cough.
The other animals that tested positive in the past few weeks have either fully recovered or are on their way to full recovery.
“We now know that many other species may be susceptible to COVID-19 based on multiple reports and we continue to exercise the utmost care and caution when working with all of our 3,000 animals and 450 different species,” the statement said .
Infections have been reported in several species worldwide, mostly in animals that have been in close contact with a person with COVID-19, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, which oversees the NVSL. A press release on Friday said that scientists are still learning about coronavirus infections in animals, but based on the information available, the risk of animals transmitting the virus to humans is small.
People with COVID-19 should avoid close contact with animals, including pets, to protect them from possible infection, according to the press release.
The NVSL serves as an international reference laboratory that offers tests for foreign and emerging animal diseases and offers instructions on diagnostic techniques.
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