Natural History Society of Maryland
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Natural History Society of Maryland

COVID in Animals -A Zoo Veterinarian's Perspective

  • 16 Jun 2022
  • 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM
  • Online via Zoom

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The SARS CoV2 pandemic has had wide implications for us humans for the past several years, touching almost every part of our lives. What about other species? This presentation will delve deeper into the unexpected risk this virus has played in animals, and how the disease has been managed in a zoo setting from a zoo veterinarian’s perspective to protect the people and the animals at the zoo.

Initial investigations in 2020 demonstrated the risk of infection to an array of species based on the presence of the ACE2-receptor, giving veterinarians and researchers hints as to which animals may become infected. The first cases of clinical disease in felid species occurred in April 2020 at the Bronx Zoo during the first wave of the outbreak in New York City, resulting in mostly mild clinical signs in the affected tigers and lions. Since that time, multiple species of non-domestic cats have been affected to varying degrees by different variants circulating in the human population, including fatally in some cases. A subunit vaccine was developed in late 2021 and approved for use in American mink (Neovison vison) and has received experimental use approval from FDA for use in zoo species in multiple states.

Ellen Bronson is the Senior Director of Animal Health, Conservation, and Research at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, where she leads the veterinary and nutrition programs, as well as the Zoo’s conservation programs, research endeavors, and sustainability program. She received her veterinary degree from the Freie Universitaet Berlin, and completed a residency in zoo and wildlife medicine at Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington DC. She has been a staff veterinarian at the Maryland Zoo since 2006. She has authored or co-authored over 50 peer-reviewed publications and three book chapters. Besides being one of the zoo’s three clinical veterinarians, she also is an active field veterinarian, working on animals ranging from native Maryland wood and bog turtles to Panamanian golden frogs and Bolivian river dolphins. Her research interests are broad and include avian malaria in penguins and reproductive health of frogs, among many others. She serves as the veterinary advisor to the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)’s Felid Taxon Advisory Group, where she advises on the medical issues affecting non-domestic cats regarding infectious diseases, preventative health, and more recently, the effects of SARS CoV-2.

The Natural History Society of Maryland is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation and contributions are tax-deductible.

The mission of the Natural History Society of Maryland is to foster stewardship of Maryland’s natural heritage by conserving its natural history collections, educating its citizenry, and inspiring its youth to pursue careers in the natural sciences.


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