Two hippopotamuses at the Antwerp Zoo in Belgium have tested positive for Covid-19, making it the first reported instance of a novel coronavirus infection in the species.
The two hippos, 41-year-old Harmein and 14-year-old Imani showed no symptoms other than runny noses, according to the zoo. The zoo said in a statement that the hippopotamus building was immediately closed after the first positive test and will temporarily remain closed until Hermien and Imani test negative.
Infections with Covid have so far been reported in several animals, including felines like lions and tigers and other mammals including deer. Felines in several zoos across the world have also died after contracting the infection.
Three snow leopards died at a zoo in Nebraska last month after suffering from the virus and two Asiatic lions that tested positive died at an Indian Zoo in June.
Well, many studies have been done to learn more about how this disease can affect different animals. These findings were based on a small number of animals, and do not show whether animals can spread the infection to people.
A report on the website of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that recent experimental research shows that many mammals, including cats, dogs, bank voles, ferrets, fruit bats, hamsters, mink, pigs, rabbits, raccoon dogs, tree shrews, and white-tailed deer can be infected with the virus. Cats, ferrets, fruit bats, hamsters, raccoon dogs, and white-tailed deer can also spread the infection to other animals of the same species in laboratory settings.
The report also noted that the studies revealed Covid also infected primates, hyenas, and otters.
However, according to the report, Chickens and ducks do not seem to become infected or spread the infection based on results from studies.
While the risk of the virus spreading from animals to humans is low, people could still transmit the virus to pets and other animals, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, the new report is likely the first of such instance of coronavirus infection in hippos.
The zoo’s veterinarian, Francis Vercammen, speaking on the issue said: “To my knowledge, this is the first known contamination in this species. Globally, this virus has mostly been reported in great apes and felines”.
Antwerp Zoo disclosed that it is currently investigating how the virus spread to its hippos.
According to the statement by the Zoo, the hippos’ caregivers have already tested negative for Covid, and “none of them have recently contracted the disease”
The zoo further noted that Harmein and Imani are currently “doing well” and will continue to be monitored by their caregivers “who are implementing even stricter safety measures”.
Jeremy Farrar, director of a charitable foundation, ‘Wellcome Trust’ and one of Britain’s most senior scientific figures, in a tweet posited that it is very important to understand the “full range of potential animal reservoirs” for the novel coronavirus in the wild as well as in the domesticated animal sector. He explained that a large animal reservoir could mean multiple paths for the virus to evolve.
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