Bay Area Cheetah Gets the Swine

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Safari West Wildlife Preserve

     A cheetah at a Santa Rosa wildlife preserve has tested positive  for the H1N1 virus, marking what wildlife officials believe is the first  reported case of the virus in a zoological setting in the United States.    

    On. Nov. 15, caretakers at the Safari West Wildlife Preserve and  African Tent Camp noticed that Gijima, an 8-year-old cheetah, was lethargic,  uninterested in food and was coughing, preserve spokeswoman Aphrodite Caserta  said.   

     The cheetah was taken in for inspection and was thought to have a  respiratory infection. However, the director of the preserve, Nancy Anne  Lang, had seen a news report of a house cat contracting the H1N1 virus, and  asked to have Gijima tested because she displayed similar symptoms.    

    A couple of days later, the test came back positive for H1N1  virus, Caserta said. Gijima has since recovered fully from the illness and is  back in her enclosure with her sister, Thula, Caserta said.    

    She said officials at Safari West do not know how Gijima was  infected with the virus, and that the preserve is continuing its regular  hygienic practices, including frequent hand washing, sterilization of food  bowls and tools, and the use of foot baths at the entrances to animal  enclosures.   

     "We didn't feel like she had any harm" from the virus, Caserta  said. "It was just kind of a fascinating thing for us to understand."   

     Steve Feldman, spokesman for the Association of Zoos and  Aquariums, said he believes Gijima's illness is the first of its kind for an  animal in a zoological setting.    

    Feldman said the illness is "just really an issue of animal  health, and doesn't present any issues for public health."   

    The AZA is a wildlife conservation organization that also  accredits zoos and aquariums nationwide.   

     AZA-accredited places in the Bay Area include the Monterey Bay  Aquarium, the San Francisco Zoo, the Oakland Zoo, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom  in Vallejo, Happy Hollow Zoo in San Jose, the Aquarium of the Bay in San  Francisco, and the Coyote Point Museum in San Mateo.

    Bay City News