Has There Been COVID 19 at Big Cat Rescue?
We have only tested the cats when we observe them coughing, wheezing or if they lack an interest in food. In Amanda Tiger‘s case, she has had a recurring cough for years before COVID, and was our first known case of COVID, but we had already euthanized her (9/16/2021) for her age related kidney issue before we had any idea that she would test positive. At 25 she was the oldest living tiger on the planet at the time.
When Amanda came back positive, we tested Aria Tiger (on 9/24/2021)who lived next door to her with human nasal swab tests, which we were not sure were accurate in cats, but she got over it so quickly, we didn’t have any reason to panic. She tested positive and then negative in pretty quick succession. Neither of these tigers were anywhere near other cats and we haven’t had COVID signs in other cats. If we do we will test them.
Our vet has advised us to continue our strict policies to protect the cats until there are studies or conclusive reports on the efficacy of vaccinations for exotic cats. Below are just some of the measures we have taken at Big Cat Rescue to keep our people and our cats safe:
What Has Big Cat Rescue Done About COVID 19?
We closed our gates to visitors on March 15, 2020 and are still closed. We have educated our staff and volunteers as follows:
3/11/2020 Enrichment Team Takes Precautions Against COVID
3/17/2020 Big Cat Rescue Announces Shut Down Due to COVID
We are closing to the public until April 30th. We will leave the gate open and put out a sign saying mail and deliveries may enter but that tours and the gift shop are closed to the public due to the COVID-19 virus.
The only small silver lining I can see to this enormously expensive decision (more than 160k loss per month) would be if it let’s us get caught up on projects to the extent volunteers still come in. For those who do, please practice social distancing, lots of sanitizing of surfaces and hand washing.
We’ve posted this on our website: Battling Coronavirus COVID-19 at Big Cat Rescue
Big Cat Rescue is working to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus in many ways.
THE PUBLIC AND COVID-19 CONCERNS
Like many other public venues, out of concern for the safety of our staff, volunteers, guests and cats we will be closed to the public until April 30, 2020. We appreciate your understanding and hope to see you after the crisis is over.
Meanwhile check out our online options, such as our LIVE webcams where you can chat with people who love big cats at https://bigcatrescue.org/cams/ and see our virtual options at BigCatRescue.org/VR
We are ramping up all the ways to connect with you on our social sites too at Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and TikTok. We have a lot of volunteers who can’t go to work or school right now, so they are getting fresh air and sunshine while helping out our cats. This means more keeper videos to share with you, while you are on lockdown.
OUR STAFF AND VOLUNTEERS DURING THE PANDEMIC
Some of our staff are working from home. Our weekly staff meetings are being held via WorkPlace video conferencing. Unlike many other sanctuaries, we are not laying off staff, even though there is limited work for them to do. The staff and volunteers who are high risk for infection are helping out with our online presence during this crisis as a way to stay sane and help our supporters remain connected despite many being in mandatory self quarantine. We have advance stipends to our interns so they can stock up on food to carry them through the likely increase in Coronavirus cases, but already the grocery store shelves are barren.
OUR CATS DURING CORONAVIRUS
We have placed orders to fill our freezers, which can hold about 20,000 pounds of food, in case the production plants or transportation companies shut down. We’ve ordered fuel for our generators and onsite storage tanks. In 2003, the first year Big Cat Rescue was able to break even financially, we began tucking away a little bit into an endowment fund. It’s money we can’t touch outside of an emergency and its purpose was to provide a pension fund for all of our exotic cats. We did it right after seeing tourism and donations come to a screeching halt in the aftermath of 9/11 and knowing what it was like to look at the faces of hungry cats and tell them there would be no food for them short of a miracle. (fortunately for us that miracle happened and no cats went hungry, but that’s a story for another day)
Thanks to our amazing donors the sanctuary’s cats have a fully funded pension that will provide food and vet care for them to the end of their days. We would have to shut everything down, end all of our work to save wild cats from abuse and extinction, and let all of our staff go, but there is money in the Community Foundation endowment fund to be sure the cats don’t starve. Even though we made the tough choices to ensure our cats’ futures, we face an immediate crisis now. In order to keep doing the important work we do, without depleting our savings, we count on your donations more than ever. Just the tour revenue we are losing right now is running about $160,000 a month and that doesn’t count all of the gift shop revenue and the added cost of keeping our staff employed and our volunteers housed and fed.
THE BIG CAT PUBLIC SAFETY ACT AND THE CORONAVIRUS SCARE
Even though Congress is not congregating or thinking about anything outside of the current epidemic, we still need you to make the Call of the Wild, asking them to co sponsor the Big Cat Public Safety Act. We have more momentum toward ending the abusive cub petting industry and phasing out private ownership of big cats than ever before. We just can not stop now! If your Senator and House members know you care about this issue, even under the looming threat of global disease and financial ruin, they will see how important it is to pass the bill before the last tigers go extinct from the inaction of previous Congresses. It may actually help to point out that COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease from close contact with wild animals and our bill prevents wildcat cub handling.
3/18/2020 Where To Get Tested for COVID
If you feel that you have symptoms or may have been exposed, we are directing our patients to these drive up Pre-Screening & Testing sites. Please note that not everyone will be tested at this time. You will need to pass the pre-screening testing before they will test you. However you will also be able to get a note for work “clears” you from being a risk for transmitting COVID-19 should you need it. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to reach out. Dr. Elyssa P. https://www.abcactionnews.com/…/baycare-to-begin-drive…
3/19/2020 Giving Volunteers Alternative Ways to Help the Cats During COVID
What about my hours? That’s the question the Volunteer Committee is hearing from many of you. Nothing has been decided about how to deal with the fact that many people either can’t put in hours because their type of work here is guest related, or they are at high risk of catching or spreading COVID-19. There are many ways to keep helping the cats, even if you can’t put in hours on site. See LaWanna Mitchell’s post from a couple days ago here:
You can still help cats, even if you can’t come in to the sanctuary! I need lots of help online with people who can answer questions about the cats and the sanctuary to all of the people who are homebound right now.
There are many online volunteer opportunities. Some are listed below.
** There are literally hundreds of groups on Facebook that I’d like to build a BCR presence in and could use more hands doing that. This would consist of sharing BCR’s Facebook Page posts and/or our BCR Unit posts, and/or BCR webpage posts into a list of groups that Holly or I would assign to you. Then either you or another volunteer would be assigned to check comments on those posts looking for opportunities to teach people about BCR, the cats, and our mission.
** With the sanctuary being closed for tours I could use more people sharing BCR gift shop items into a list of product promotions groups.
** This is a great opportunity to have some time to share BCR’s videos into many many more groups on Facebook. This would help us reach more people as well as help raise the outreach and income fon BCR’s YouTube channels.
** Submitting BCR articles to newspapers online across the country. These are done either thru email or online forms.
** Mentoring newcomers by chatting with them about the sanctuary, the cats, and the issues as you help them through BCR’s educational units.
** If anyone has video editing software and some pawsome video editing skills, I have a folder of keeper videos to be converted for subscribers and trimmed for the social sites that only allow 60 second clips.
** Little stories about the cats need to be written that can be aded to posts or bios about the cats. These would be 1, 2, or 3 paragraph stories about the cats at the sanctuary. Basically, these would be things that you see and then would go home and tell a friend you saw, you know that kind of fun stuff that keepers see but the rest of us never get to see. Example, what do the cats do when you clean their cages? Which foods and enrichments are favorites for individual cats. These are things we can use to make more purrsonalized and interesting posts in the future and I can add a few to the cats’ bio pages.
** Need a lot of people to simply chat in the comments of posts on BCR social pages and in groups under BCR posts. This encourages viewers to become more engaged and more supportive of the sanctuary, the cats, and our issues. Plus, it encourages social sites to show our posts to more people which in turn helps us find more and more new people.
** People to run watch parties on Facebook. This consists of playing a video from BCR’s page in a group and chatting with people in the comments while you watch the video together.
** We have a ton of YouTube videos that still need to have the Closed Captioning files edited.
Does any of the above sound like fun to you?
Contact me if you have some time to help! LaWanna
3/27/2020 Please take COVID-19 seriously
for the protection of your fellow Rescuers here by staying 6 feet apart, disinfecting surfaces frequently, washing your hands for 20+ seconds at a time and not touching your face or putting food in your mouths with dirty hands.
Big Cat Rescue is a disaster team member for Hillsborough County. If you are looking for the most up to date info about the Coronavirus restrictions check out the articles here: https://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/…/emergenc…/stay-safe
I also access the John Hopkins Coronavirus map each day here: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html
3/30/2020 Jen L. Advises Useful COVID Resources
A friend of mine set me these links. Her org’s social media manager listed them as their most useful resources right now. Most of these were in the context of COVID-19 rather than our specific situation, but maybe they’re still relevant. Be well.
4/5/2020 A tiger at the Bronx Zoo has tested positive for COVID-19.
Please be especially careful feeding the cats that the utensils touching their food have been sterilized. I’m not too worried about you guys eating something the tigers have touched. Seriously though, lots of hand washing in both directions, PLEASE!!! https://www.aphis.usda.gov/…/sa-2020/ny-zoo-covid-19 and https://abc7news.com/tiger-at-nyc-zoo-tests…/6079258/
4/24/2020 The FWC recommendations regarding contact with exotic cats:
SARS-CoV-2 is a recently emerged zoonotic pathogen (coronavirus) that can be transmitted from human-to-human. It is not currently known whether the SARS-CoV-2 virus has the potential to infect native North American wildlife. Disease and wildlife experts with the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other organizations are currently working to assess these risks. As more becomes known, experts from these agencies will release further guidance.
On April 3, 2020, a Malayan tiger with respiratory signs living at the Wildlife Conservation Society Bronx Zoo in New York tested positive for COVID-19.
You can read more about the case in both of the below links:
Some research has demonstrated that felids and mustelids (e.g., ferrets) can be highly susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection under experimental conditions. Some species of fruit bats may also be susceptible to infection. See: https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=7196506
The Feline Taxon Advisory Group of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums has put out the following statement: https://www.wildlifedisease.org/wda/Portals/0/Covid-19%20Information/Felid%20Taxon%20Advisory%20Group%20COVID-19%20recommendations%20for%20participating%20institutions.pdf
Until more is known about the potential for humans to transfer the virus to animals (“reverse zoonosis”), or animals to transfer the virus to humans, FWC recommends following the attached CDC guidelines regarding the use of personal protective equipment when handling or working in close proximity to captive wildlife.
FWC recommends taking extra precautions against virus transmission when working with non-human primates, bats and all animals in the families Felidae and Mustelidae.
More information regarding animals and COVID-19 19 can be found here:
4/29/2020 Find out the status of COVID-19
in your area at this new addition to the Johns Hopkins map. https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/us-map At the top right choose your state and then your county. When the map highlights the county, click on the map and it pulls up the stats and links to more info.
5/8/2020 Where To Get Tested
AFC urgent care is now doing COVid-19 antibody testing. Cost is around $70. There is an AFC less than a mile for the sanctuary. They are testing 7 days per week and test from 8-2. It is first come first serve basis. (This was a volunteer sharing info with others. Big Cat Rescue pays for testing our our people.)
5/12/2020 Important Updates Wear masks AND stay 6 feet apart!
When you are inside, food prep especially, or other buildings where you are passing by each other with less than 6 feet of separation, or on golf carts together, you need to be wearing masks. Even if you think you are young and unlikely to die from COVID-19 you could be breathing on the cats’ food, or breathing in close proximity to those who are at high risk. Our cats can die from this and so could your fellow volunteers, even if you aren’t exhibiting signs of infection.
In Hillsborough County there have been over 1400 cases resulting in 37 deaths, which is a death rate of 2.58% I monitor this report daily and you can see the trend is still steeply increasing for both new cases and deaths. https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/us-map
This is long but worth reading to really understand what is at risk: https://www.erinbromage.com/…/the-risks-know-them-avoid…
This is a good resource on masks: https://www.cdc.gov/…/prevent…/cloth-face-cover-faq.html
I know it’s way too hot to wear masks while you are cleaning cages or doing projects, but if you are going to drop it from your face, please have it available for those close situations (think carts, or passing thru doors) or if the cat approaches you within 6 feet. I love you all and can’t risk losing even one of you. Even those who recover are likely to have continued breathing issues and susceptibility to future strains of viruses.
6/22/2020 Carole asks Volunteers, Staff and Interns to Social Distance Better
Please make sure our volunteers wear their masks and social distance while here. You might need to spread out the lunch tables or stagger the times to achieve safe levels for eating which obviously means masks off.
7/15/2020 Wear your masks and stay 6 feet apart!
This was from our former volunteer Julie Hanan. Her husband retired from being running the University Hospital here in Tampa a few years ago.
How can a disease with 1% mortality shut down the United States?
“There are 2 problems with this question.
It neglects the law of large numbers and
It assumes that one of two things happen: you die or you’re 100% fine.
The US has a population of 328,200,000. If one percent of the population dies, that’s 3,282,000 people dead.
Three million people dead would monkey wrench the economy no matter what. That more than doubles the number of annual deaths all at once.
The second bit is people keep talking about deaths. Deaths, deaths, deaths. Only one percent die! Just one percent! One is a small number! No big deal, right?
What about the people who survive?
For every one person who dies:
19 more require hospitalization.
18 of those will have permanent heart damage for the rest of their lives.
10 will have permanent lung damage.
3 will have strokes.
2 will have neurological damage that leads to chronic weakness and loss of coordination.
2 will have neurological damage that leads to loss of cognitive function.
So now all of a sudden, that “but it’s only 1% fatal!” becomes:
3,282,000 people dead.
59,076,000 people with permanent heart damage.
32,820,000 people with permanent lung damage.
9,846,000 people with strokes.
6,564,000 people with muscle weakness.
6,564,000 people with loss of cognitive function.
That’s the thing that the folks who keep going on about “only 1% dead, what’s the big deal?” don’t get.
The choice is not “ruin the economy to save 1%.” If we reopen the economy, it will be destroyed anyway. The US economy cannot survive everyone getting COVID-19″
10/8/2020 Covid Reminders – for Oct Safety
Use Healthy Practices to Protect Yourself. The best way to stay healthy is to follow these steps from the CDC:
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and practice social distancing by keeping at least 6 feet away from others if you must go out in public.
Wear a cloth face covering to cover your mouth and nose when around others and when you must go out in public. The cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected. Don’t place one on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance. Learn more.
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and throw the tissue away after use. If a tissue isn’t available, cough or sneeze into your elbow or sleeve, not your hands.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, computers, phones, keyboards, sinks, toilets, faucets and countertops.
10/31/2020 If you are within 8 feet of our cats, or each other, be sure you are wearing a mask!
ACTIONNEWSJAX.COM Coronavirus: 11-year-old tiger at Zoo Knoxville tests positive. – Carole
11/18/2020 Enrichment Team Takes Extra Precautions
1/11/2021 Extra Precautionary Measures
With COVID cases increasing daily we will now be implementing additional safety measures. No more than 5 people at one time should be inside the Food Prep building. No more than 2 people should be inside the keeper cafe building, with no more than 6 (distanced) on the porch at any one time. Other buildings on property should also follow these limits. Masks should still be worn indoors at all times. Signs will be posted appropriately. Thanks for staying safe.
1/18/2021 Apple Watches To Detect a Fall or COVID
Gale is getting the iPhone and Watch set up today at AT&T for Coordinators to carry on their day that will alert us and 911 in the event of a fall. In light of new studies, if you don’t already own and wear an Apple Watch, I’d recommend it.
“Smartwatches and fitness wearables may be able to play a valuable role in the early detection of COVID-19, according to recent studies. Researchers from Mount Sinai have found that the Apple Watch can detect small changes to a user’s heartbeat that may indicate they have the coronavirus, a full week before they feel sick, as CBS News reported. One company is even developing a custom wearable to detect COVID-19 — all of which could help stop the spread of the disease by keeping asymptomatic folks at home.
In a study titled called “Warrior Watch,” the Mount Sinai researchers followed a group of 297 health care workers between April 29 and September 29. The participants wore Apple Watches equipped with special apps that measured changes in their heart rate variability (HRV). “The watch showed significant changes in HRV metrics up to seven days before individuals had a positive nasal swab confirming COVID-19 infection,” said study author Robert P. Hirten, MD.”
“They’ve done studies where, if your respiratory rate goes up during the night… that’s sort of a telltale sign that you might have something,” said major champ Rory McIlroy back in June.
1/26/2021 Wildcat Sanctuary has posted that some of their cats, including a 21 year old, are positive for COVID-19.
Please don’t breathe on the cats and wear your masks around each other as well. I spoke to someone this week, a healthy man in his 40s, who never smoked and never had any sort of underlying conditions. The virus put him on machines for a week in the hospital and even though he’s been sent home with an oxygen tank, he is just a shadow of his former self. He says it still feels like his lungs are on fire. Please don’t expose yourselves or the cats to such misery.
2/18/2021 Afton Reminds Meds People to Use Separate Tongs & Sticks
Please make sure when you are doing meds that you are taking enough tongs and sticks for each big cat (tigers and lion). Due to the fact that it has been proven that the big cats can contract COVID, they should not be sharing items that go into their mouths.
3/8/2021 Can someone who has been vaccinated for COVID spread the disease?
The vaccine is designed to stop the virus from making you sick. We do not know yet if the vaccine will stop you from spreading the virus. We should continue to wear masks, social distance, and wash hands after we have been vaccinated.
If you are vaccinated against COVID-19, you may still be exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. After exposure, people can be infected with or “carry” the virus that causes COVID-19 but not feel sick or have any symptoms. Experts call this “asymptomatic infection.”
How long does it take to build up immunity to COVID-19 after receiving the vaccine?
COVID-19 vaccines teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. It typically takes a few weeks after vaccination for the body to build protection (immunity) against the virus that causes COVID-19. That means it is possible a person could still get COVID-19 just after vaccination.
How long does the COVID-19 virus live on surfaces?
The virus is new, and much is being learned about it. Current evidence suggests that it may remain for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials.
Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection with EPA-approved disinfectants is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in households and community settings. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. If surfaces are dirty, clean them using detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection. To disinfect, most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work.
Can someone spread COVID-19 without being sick?
Yes. People who do not have symptoms (asymptomatic) and do not know they are infected can spread the virus to others. While the incubation period for the virus that causes COVID-19 can be 2-14 days, people who are infected with the virus may become infectious to others several days before they start to feel ill. That’s why it’s important for everyone to practice social distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from other people) and wear masks in public settings.
Please Acknowledge that you have read this thanks. (This is how we make sure all of our staff, volunteers and interns have read one of our Important Updates. They sign below that they have read it on WorkPlace.)
3/26/2021 Howard Baskin Suggests Vaccinations
Note that COVID vaccines become available for all adults very soon and I would encourage you to jump on this and get them. BRIGHT SPOT(THE ONE WE’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR) [JOHN LOCHER | Associated Press]All Florida adults will qualify for COVID-19 vaccines starting April 5Big news, everyone! Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday that the state will lower the coronavirus vaccination eligibility age to 40 and up on Monday. Then the following week, residents 18 and older can get in line.
How about 16 and 17 year olds?: They will also be eligible, according to a DeSantis spokeswoman, but only for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
What you can do to prepare: Every vaccination site is different. Here’s our full guide to finding doses across Tampa Bay. TIPS HERE
3/29/2021 COVID 19 Vaccinations are not 100% effective.
This means that even after you are fully vaccinated you can still get Covid and you can still pass it on to others. Please remember to wear your masks and social distance. We are not out of the woods yet we have a long way to go. Thank you. Gale Ingham
4/6/2021 Erin Instructs Keepers on Disinfection Techniques
In order to make sure we don’t start spreading covid between our Tigers and Lion, please take a spray bottle with you for feeding and meds. Spray and rinse any tongs or sticks between cats.
4/8/2021 Afton Reminds Keepers on Disinfection Techniques
4/15/2021 USDA Doesn’t Enforce Guidance But We Will
This would seem like a win for big cats, but USDA doesn’t enforce their “guidance”. Preventing SARS-CoV-2 Spread Between the Public and Animals Animals may be best protected by:
Asking the public to wear a face mask at the facility
Ensuring that members of the public cannot come within 6 feet of nonhuman primates, nondomestic big cats, and all species of mustelids (e.g., ferrets, mink, otters)
Suspending hands-on encounters with any of the SARS-CoV-2-susceptible animals
Read entire Guidance Report by USDA re: COVID and exposure to wild animals.
5/10/2021 BCR Covid Policies regarding Masks regardless of vaccination status:
When should you be wearing a mask:
Inside of any building doing all tasks.
In Food Prep preparing the cats meals.
Outside when feeding the cats.
Outside within 6ft of a cat – especially when doing meds or operant training.
Outside within 6 ft of another person during all activities.
Tours Guides with guest. (Only small private tours are being done for larger donors)
All guests at all times while on property.
When you do not have to wear a mask:
Intern housing with your house mates.
Outside working at least 6 ft away from each other
on a project.
Outside eating as long as 6ft away is maintained.
Inside a building that is your work space and shared
with other staff members. If another person enters a
mask should be put on during their visit.
Please acknowledge that you have read and understand this post.
8/2/2021 Important Updates to Big Cat Crew
August Safety Update! Delta Variant is running rampant in Florida. Florida on Friday reported 21,683 new cases of COVID-19 — the most infections in a single day since the start of the pandemic, according to data released Saturday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Over the last seven days, Florida saw a 50% weekly increase in new cases, reporting 110,477 cases from July 23 to July 29, according to the Florida Department of Health. In July, Florida was one of four states that accounted for 40% of the country’s total infections, according to White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients. During that time, the Sunshine State recorded one out of every five of the nation’s new cases.
Please be respectful of your fellow volunteers and wear your mask out in public and here at BCR.
Remember vaccines only help you if you get covid.
You can get it and give it to others, the majority of Fla citizens have not been vaccinated. Thank you.
8/5/2021 Zoos With COVID
9/8/2021 Carole Asks Everyone To Get Vaccinated
I’m asking all of you to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as our already vaccinated, otherwise perfectly healthy volunteers are now succumbing to this disease, and exposing others here while not yet showing symptoms. This is causing a disruption in our ability to take care of the cats because we have to stay home, get tested and retested, and meanwhile the cats are at risk as well. We are going to require all new and existing interns and all new volunteers to be fully vaccinated before starting. These variants are serious and I need everyone to be prepared to fight off infection to the best of their body’s ability. Please also wear masks when within 6 feet of each other or the cats, for your own safety and to insure you aren’t infecting others. Thanks!
9/26/2021 Erin Instructs Keepers
10/12/2021 Snow Leopard Dies at SD Zoo
COVID Kills Snow Leopard. Please be careful around each other and the cats by getting vaccinated and wearing your masks! https://www.cbs42.com/…/snow-leopard-with-covid…/
10/25/2021 Denver Zoo Cats Have COVID
10/31/2021 COVID is Killing Exotic Cats
Dear Colleagues, Over a year and a half after the first SARS-CoV-2 case was documented in a tiger, there has been a disturbing increase in infections in non-domestic felids. While SARS-CoV-2 remains primarily a disease of humans, we are again reaching out to AZA institutions with felid species to update and remind you of the risk to the cats in your care and provide guidance to help protect your cats. There will also be additional species-specific guidelines coming out from individual SSPs, as appropriate.
In addition to continued reports of natural SARS CoV-2 infections in tigers, lions, puma and snow leopards, there have been recent confirmations in fishing cat and amur leopard cat. Many of the recent cases have been confirmed to be infections with the Delta variant. Recent cases have occurred long since the implementation of COVID19 protocols (including use of masks for all staff) in zoological institutions for working around at-risk species and vaccination of many of our staff. Additionally, we now, unfortunately, have confirmed our first SARS-CoV-2 fatalities in lion and snow leopard.
Similar to what has been seen in humans, the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 appears to be more easily transmitted and to cause more serious disease in non-domestic felids. We know that even vaccinated personnel can become infected with and spread the virus even when asymptomatic. Prevention of spread between humans and non-domestic felids remains imperative. The Felid TAG strongly recommends that each facility review their risk assessment and protocols in light of current and changing human community transmission rates, human infection risk, and this new information about the impact of the Delta variant on felids.
This includes evaluation of:
PPE management and disinfection protocols:Well-fitting face masks covering the nose and mouth should be worn at all times when working indoors with felids, training, when preparing diets and enrichment items, and when working outdoors within 6ft of felids, regardless of human vaccination status. Upgrading to approved higher efficacy (not cloth) masks (e.g. multiple-ply surgical masks, N95) should be considered, especially when community levels and overall risk is high. See this link for approved options: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/topics/respirators/disp_part/default.html
Review of building ventilation to confirm appropriate HVAC function and clean filters should be performed and optimized where feasible.
Disinfection of frequently contacted surfaces in both keeper and cat spaces, including fomites (food bowels, enrichment items, etc.) is still recommended. Use of gloves when handling items the cats will contact (e.g. food preparation, enrichment items) is recommended.
Staff access to felids/felid spaces. Limit access, especially close contact, to staff necessary for animal care, safety, and health needs in ways that continue to prioritize both human and animal safety and health. Maintain a log of personnel working with susceptible species for potential contact tracing if needed.
Proximity to cats both behind the scenes and in public spaces should be evaluated to ensure appropriate distancing, with the addition of barriers as appropriate.
Vaccination plan for all felids. The Felid TAG supports vaccination of all non-domestic felids with the Zoetis vaccine. Each institution should develop a vaccination plan for implementation once the vaccine is available to each facility. Vaccine efficacy is still being analyzed, but to date there have been no major side effects reported.
Symptom screening (self-reporting or onsite) program and staff vaccination. This is a disease of humans that can infect cats, so limiting potential for human infection is a priority. See current CDC and local public health guidance. Broad vaccination of staff is strongly encouraged to decrease circulation of the virus.
Report any concerns, suspect cases, and positive testing results to the Felid TAG veterinary advisors as well as the appropriate SSP veterinary advisors.
It is important to remember that non-domestic felids are susceptible to a wide range of other respiratory pathogens. However, if you have a suspect case, samples from zoo species can be tested at veterinary diagnostic laboratories. Suitable samples include nasal, oral, and oropharyngeal swabs; tracheal wash; bronchoalveolar lavage; and feces. It is imperative that you first contact your state animal health officials to discuss any suspect case/s and to obtain permission to send samples for testing. Additionally, SARS CoV-2 is an OIE reportable disease. As such, any sample that is presumptive positive at a veterinary diagnostic laboratory in the US will automatically be sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) for confirmatory testing. If confirmed, NVSL is required to report results to state and federal officials, and the latter are required to report positive results to the OIE. Despite concerns about reporting, we recommend testing suspect cases so that appropriate additional preventative measures can be taken to limit spread among felids, to ensure safety of staff, and to contribute to a better understanding of SARS-CoV-2 in non-domestic felids.
Stay well and safe, Karen A. Terio DVM, PhD, Diplomate ACVP Zoological Pathology Program College of Veterinary Medicine University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign c/o Chicago Zoological Society 3300 Golf Rd
Brookfield, IL 60513
12/9/2021 Erin Reports on COVID Conference
Links they provided: Checklist for prevention recommended use by CDC and AZA: https://zahp.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/COVID-19-Infection-Prevention-and-Control-Assessment-Tool-for-Captive-Wildlife-Facilities-1.pdf
Summary of how the disease spread in Gorillas and what precautions (PPE) were taken at San Diego zoo. https://zahp.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Gorilla-SARS-CoV-2-White-Paper-Bulleted-SDZG-Feb-2021.pdf
ZAHP COVID-19 Prevention and control website – https://zahp.org/covid-19-infection-prevention-and-control-assessment-tool-for-captive-wildlife-facilities/
They all recommended the vaccine. Also recommended N-95 or at least surgical masks especially inside. Breakthrough infections have happened but infections were mild and all animals survived with supportive care. Delta was quick-spreading compared to the original virus.
We are fortunate that everyone is outdoors here, it seems this has been a nightmare for indoor exhibits.
Nothing about smaller cats, although domestics can contract so I assume everyone can.