Two hippopotamuses at a zoo in Belgium have tested positive for Covid-19, in what is believed to be the first such infection reported in the species. The animals have been quarantined and are said to be doing well.
Zoo officials are not sure how the two hippos, Imani, aged 14 and Hermien, 41, caught the virus. A press release issued by the Antwerp Zoo said, their caretakers have not shown any Covid-19 symptoms and all tested negative for the virus.
The pair is said to be doing well apart from having running noses. Managers of the facility have tightened restrictions until the animals test negative.
Hippos naturally tend to have wet noses, but vets decided to test the duo after they spotted the animals were producing thick mucus.
The zoo's veterinarian Francis Vercammen, who oversaw their testing for the coronavirus 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.
The hippos’ enclosure has been sealed off, while their handlers are required to wear masks and safety glasses when coming into contact with them. They also must disinfect their footwear before any contact with the hippos.
Covid Prevalence in Animals
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been several reports of captive and domesticated animals being infected with the coronavirus.
The virus was found in some big cats, primates, ferrets and minks, with three snow leopards dying from the disease at a zoo in the US last month. Just last week, Canada also confirmed that three Covid cases had been discovered in wild deer.
While animal-to-human transmission risk is low, people can spread coronavirus to pets, with companion animals, especially cats and dogs, being the most Covid-impacted groups of animals.
But due to limited testing, it remains unclear how prevalent coronavirus is in the wild.