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Coronavirus

Denver Zoo will begin vaccinating its animals against COVID-19

Transmission is rare between humans and other species, but there have been several documented cases of COVID-19 in large cats, monkeys and certain rodent populations

Lee, one of Denver Zoo's former polar bears, is photographed on January 24, 2013. He was transferred to the Columbus Zoo in Ohio in November 2018. (Courtesy of Denver Zoo)

The Denver Zoo will begin vaccinating some of its animals for COVID-19 as early as next week.

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

Zoologists say they have been working with the veterinary vaccine company Zoetis to receive doses for the animals, and primates and carnivores will be first on the list. The veterinary vaccine, which is formulated primarily for mammals, is being developed separate from the ones for human use.

Transmission is rare between humans and other species, but there have been several documented cases of COVID-19 in large cats, monkeys and certain rodent populations. Mink farmers in Denmark were forced to euthanize millions of the animals because of a coronavirus outbreak among the population there.

“We know some of those animals — like gorillas and tigers, mink, otters — can all be infected. But for a lot of these others, we don’t know what the susceptibility is,” Dr. Scott Larsen, the zoo’s vice president of animal health, told KMGH-TV. “For animals, we want to be able to protect them similar to (how) we’re trying to protect people.”

Veterinary scientists do not think common house pets like cats or dogs are in significant danger of catching COVID-19.

“There are 85 million dogs in the United States and 90 million cats,” said Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald, a veterinarian at VCA Alameda East Veterinary in Denver. “If we were going to see problems … I think we would be seeing it.”


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