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NEW ORLEANS – Three African lions at a New Orleans zoo have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, officials said Tuesday.

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The Audubon Zoo announced in news release that Arnold, Asani and Kali tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The zoo’s animal care staff made the determination after noticing the lions coughing and suffering from nasal discharge, according to the release.

Nasal and fecal samples for the symptomatic lions were collected and tested at the Louisiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Baton Rouge, WSDU-TV reported.

“All lions continue to have a normal appetite and appear to be doing well,” zoo officials said, adding that the big cats have been placed in quarantine.

“As with all of the zoo’s animals, Arnold, Kali, and Asani continue to receive excellent care,” Bob MacLean, the zoo’s senior veterinarian, said in a statement. “Audubon’s veterinary and husbandry teams are skilled and dedicated professionals who work tirelessly to ensure the well-being of the animals in our care.”

It is unclear how the lions became infected, but zoo officials said it was most likely that they were exposed to an asymptomatic keeper.

“Audubon is taking all recommended precautions to protect keepers from becoming infected and to prevent any further transmission from people to the lions,” Gary A. Balsamo, the state’s public health veterinarian and assistant state epidemiologist, said in a statement. “The lions are always separated from the public by at least six feet, and that distance has recently been increased to ensure no risk to the public.”

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