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Virus Outbreak That Killed 7 North Texas Big Cats Appears Over

Lucca, 13, was a female tiger who died from canine distemper at In-Sync Exotics Wildlife Rescue and Education Center. (credit: In-Sync Exotics)

WYLIE (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — A spokeswoman for a North Texas animal sanctuary where seven big cats have died of a virus says the worst of the outbreak appears to be over even though some cats still show symptoms.

Lisa Williams said Monday that 22 animals — lions, tigers and leopards — tested positive for canine distemper at the height of the outbreak over the summer at In-Sync Exotics Wildlife Rescue and Education Center. Besides the seven cats killed by the virus, other animals either no longer show any signs or exhibit minor symptoms such as loss of appetite.

Experts believe raccoons transferred the virus into the large outdoor cages that house the cats.

A female cougar named Crimson was the last to pass away in August. Crimson was the seventh big cat to die at the wildlife sanctuary this year, but unlike the six tigers before her, she didn't die from canine distemper -- the cougar succumbed after having battled kidney issues.

Williams says a lion named Sabu died Sunday but at 23 years old his death was attributed to old age and infirmity.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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