Three snow leopards at Kentucky zoo are the first in US to test positive for coronavirus after likely contracting it from an asymptomatic staffer

 Three snow leopards - the first in the US - at a Kentucky zoo have now tested positive for coronavirus, zoo officials confirmed Friday. 

The zoo said in a statement Friday that the three snow leopards began showing minor respiratory symptoms - including a dry cough or wheeze - over the last two weeks. 

They were then tested for coronavirus. 

NeeCee - the five-year-old female snow leopard - was the first to test positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, the zoo said.  


The Louisville Zoo said Friday that three of its snow leopards, including NeeCee (pictured), tested positive for coronavirus

The Louisville Zoo said Friday that three of its snow leopards, including NeeCee (pictured), tested positive for coronavirus


Later in the day Friday, the zoo confirmed that male leopards Kimti and Meru had also tested positive for the virus, CNN reported.  

It's believed that the snow leopards picked up their infection from an asymptomatic zoo staffer, despite precautions taken by animal handlers. 

The zoo said that staffers working with cats, non-human primates, bats and ferrets began wearing personal protective equipment when near the animals beginning in April, during the height of the pandemic. 

In additional to wearing PPE, zoo staff carry out health screenings when they report to duty and stay home when feeling sick and are given coronavirus tests if they show COVID-19 symptoms, the zoo said. 

The snow leopards were tested after they started showing symptoms including dry coughing and wheezing over the last two weeks. One of the male snow leopards is pictured

The snow leopards were tested after they started showing symptoms including dry coughing and wheezing over the last two weeks. One of the male snow leopards is pictured

It's believed the snow leopards picked up coronavirus from an asymptomatic zoo handler

It's believed the snow leopards picked up coronavirus from an asymptomatic zoo handler

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

All three snow leopards are expected to make full recoveries and none of the other animals were showing symptoms of the virus, the zoo said.

NeeCee's positive test result marks the first confirmed case of a snow leopard being infected with the virus.  

Other American zoos have reported positive coronavirus results amongst their big cats. 

In April, four tigers and three lions tested positive at New York City's Bronx Zoo, while three tigers at Zoo Knoxville, in Tennessee, were confirmed to have been infected with the virus in October. 

In all cases, the animals recovered and are doing well. 

Earlier this week, four lions at Barcelona Zoo in Spain were reported to have tested positive for coronavirus. 

It's believed that all of the big cats who tested positive for coronavirus picked it up from an asymptomatic human.    

Three snow leopards at Kentucky zoo are the first in US to test positive for coronavirus after likely contracting it from an asymptomatic staffer Three snow leopards at Kentucky zoo are the first in US to test positive for coronavirus after likely contracting it from an asymptomatic staffer Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 05:36 Rating: 5

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