Snow leopard at Louisville Zoo tests positive for virus

Mid-South

Close up of a beautiful snow leopard (Uncia uncia) with selective focus.

LOUISVILLE, KY (NewsNation Now) — A snow leopard at the Louisville Zoo has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus in humans, the zoo said Friday. Federal officials said this was the first snow leopard to test positive for the virus in the United States.

The snow leopard, named NeeCee, has mild symptoms. The zoo said they are also testing two other male snow leopards, Kimti and Meru. All three showed mild symptoms and are being monitored closely, but are expected to make full recoveries, the Louisville Zoo said in a statement. The symptoms include respiratory symptoms like a dry cough or wheeze.

No other animals were exhibiting symptoms, the zoo said.

The cats were likely infected by an asymptomatic staff member, despite precautions that included caretakers wearing personal protective equipment, officials said.

The cats are off exhibit and will be in quarantine until the symptoms have resolved and they have tested negative. No other animals are showing symptoms.

“Zoo keepers working with cats, non-human primates, bats and ferrets wear PPE when near the animals. All Zoo staff go through a health screening at the start of their day, stay at home if feeling unwell and get tested if symptoms arise,” the Zoo said in a statement.

The zoo said the risk of infected animals spreading the virus to humans is considered to be low and the zoo remains open, though the snow leopard exhibit is closed while the cats recover.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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