According to investigations conducted by a local university, lions and pumas at a zoo in the South African capital of Pretoria contracted severe COVID-19 from asymptomatic zoo caretakers, prompting fears that novel varieties of the disease could evolve from animal reservoirs.
The University of Pretoria said in a statement on Tuesday that feces from two pumas who experienced diarrhea, nasal discharge, and malnutrition in 2020 revealed that the animals had Covid-19 and recovered completely after 23 days. Three lions tested positive for the coronavirus a year later, during South Africa’s delta-variant-driven third wave. One of the lions had pneumonia.
The findings support the hypothesis that while the coronavirus spreads from animals to humans, the virus can also transfer from humans to animals. According to the data, the disease was spreading among the workers at the time the lions were ill, and it was likely passed on to the large cats. According to the researchers, the disease might then mutate in the animals and infect humans again.
Masking and infection management while dealing with caged animals, as well as barriers to keeping people at zoos from getting too close to them, are recommended, according to the researchers.
“This is to prevent endangered animals from becoming sick and dying,” said Marietjie Venter and Katja Koeppel, two university academics. “These precautions are also necessary because new variants could emerge if the virus establishes itself in additional animal reservoirs; these variants could then be transferred to humans.” Minks infected with the coronavirus have been slaughtered in Denmark since the epidemic began, and Hong Kong announced on Tuesday that 2,000 small animals, including hamsters, would be culled after some tested positive for the disease.