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2 tigers are first animals at Denver Zoo to test positive for COVID-19

Yuri and Nikita have symptoms including coughing, sneezing, lethargy and nasal discharge, the zoo said.

DENVER — Two tigers at the Denver Zoo have tested positive for COVID-19, the zoo announced on Thursday.

Yuri and Nikita are both 11-year-old Amur tigers. They were tested for the virus after their animal care staff observed coughing, sneezing, lethargy, and nasal discharge in both animals, according to the zoo.

They are both unvaccinated, a release said.

They tested presumptive positive through fecal and nasal swab samples at the Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Fort Collins, the zoo said.

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The results were also confirmed positive by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories, according to the zoo. 

The zoo said Yuri and Nikita are the first animals there to test positive for COVID-19, and they appear to be improving. No other animals currently show signs of potential infection, according to the zoo.

Credit: Denver Zoo

“We’ve known for a long time what species at the Zoo are susceptible to the virus, and we’ve taken every necessary precaution to protect all of our animals,” said Brian Aucone, Senior Vice President for Life Sciences at Denver Zoo in a release. “Although we can’t be certain how Yuri and Nikita became infected with COVID-19, we’re fortunate to have an incredible staff with the expertise and experience to recognize their symptoms, and provide excellent care and treatment.”

The zoo said Yuri and Nikita will remain under close observation by their keepers and veterinarians, and receive treatment for any symptoms as needed. Both tigers will continue to have access to their outdoor habitats, according to the zoo, however there is no risk to public health due to the distance between guests and the animals. Daily tiger demonstrations have been suspended until Yuri and Nikita fully recover, the zoo said.

Credit: Denver Zoo

The zoo said since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has taken extraordinary measures to safeguard the health of its guests, staff, and animals. The zoo’s animal care staff adheres to strict COVID-19 protocols around its animals, according to a release, including required use of personal protective equipment, hygiene, cleaning, employee self-screening, and health management.

RELATED: Great cats test 'presumptive positive' for COVID-19 at National Zoo

The zoo said last year, it installed protective barriers around the tigers’ habitat, The Edge, to ensure safe distancing between guests and the animals.

The release said the zoo’s veterinarians are planning to vaccinate the tigers along with other big cat species as soon as more doses of the animal-specific Zoetis vaccine become available.

RELATED: Denver Zoo animals among the first to get COVID vaccine

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