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Sandstone, Minnesota tiger tests positive for COVID-19 virus

tiger tests positive

SANDSTONE, MN (KBJR) -- A tiger at The Wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstone, Minnesota has tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the positive test is based on results from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories.

A veterinarian at the Pine County sanctuary reports the 21-year-old female Sumatran/Bengal tiger received supportive care and has recovered.

Staff first noticed lions, tigers and cougars displaying symptoms in early January.

Shortly after, the veterinarian consulted state animal health officials about testing for SARS-CoV-2 at a private laboratory before results were officially confirmed by the USDA.

“This marks only the second confirmed captive or domestic animal case of SARS-CoV-2 in the state,” said State Veterinarian, Dr. Beth Thompson. “It’s a good reminder that the virus can be transmitted from people to animals. We appreciate the veterinarians in the state who contact our office to discuss testing and surveillance of exposed and symptomatic animals so we can investigate with our state and federal partners.”

People with COVID-19 can spread the virus to some animals during close contact, according to the state Health Department. Experts say it's important for people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to avoid contact with pets and other animals to protect them from possible infection.

“We have not seen any evidence of COVID passing from pet or wild captive cats to humans,” said State Public Health Veterinarian, Dr. Joni Scheftel. “Yet, in an abundance of caution, MDH is working closely with The Wildcat Sanctuary to understand and monitor the situation.”

Caregivers and staff at The Wildcat Sanctuary have maintained strict COVID-19 protocols, wearing face masks, sanitizing hands and maintaining physical distance, since the onset of the pandemic early last year.

The sanctuary is not open to the public.

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