A snow leopard in the Louisville Zoo has tested positive for coronavirus. It's the first confirmed case from the virus inside a snow leopard.

Louisville Zoo Senior Veterinarian Zoli Gyimesi said the zoo's snow leopards were tested after showing mild symptoms.

“For concerning the latter weeks, the 3 in our snow leopards have been exhibiting very mild very intermittent clinical signs, respiratory symptoms, consistent with a dry cough or wheeze,” Gyimesi said.

Fecal samples in the leopards were sent to the University of Illinois for evaluation, and NeeCee, the 5-year-old female leopard, tested positive. Results from two male leopards, Kimti and Meru, are still pending.

Louisville Zoo Director John Walczak said keepers happen to be wearing PPE since the pandemic began, but it's likely the leopards contracted the virus from an asymptomatic handler. hey work closely with the animals under their care, and have a tendency to see quickly when something is wrong, Walczak said.

“Our staff does a great job in monitoring the health of our animals,” he Walczak said. “The perfect example I can give — it'd be just like having a parent this is a nurse that spends nine hours each day along with you. Our keepers are aware of the animals' slightest signs.”

Zoo officials say they don't anticipate any widespread testing of other zoo animals. COVID-19 testing for animals has to be approved by the State Veterinarian and the State Public Health Veterinarian.

The CDC has stated that animals haven't played a significant role within the spread of coronavirus, but it can pass between humans and certain types of non-human animals.

Gyimesi said coronavirus has been found in other big cats – it had been found earlier this year among lions and tigers in the Bronx Zoo – therefore the diagnosis wasn't shocking. “Snow leopards are identical genus as lions and tigers,” he said, “so it makes sense herpes could affect them similarly.”

COVID-19 symptoms are usually mild in big cats, and Gyimesi said it's not considered life-threatening. The leopards in Louisville are expected to create a full recovery.

“The fact that they are not lethargic and they don't miss a meal tells us they're not feeling too badly,” Gyimesi said.

For now, they're off exhibit while being monitored by veterinary staff, and while the other two leopards' exams are processed.