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Animals are increasingly suffering from COVID-19 - what is the reason?

Recently, scientists have noted that allmore animal species become susceptible to SARS-CoV-2. So in November, at the Denver Zoo, for the first time in the world, hyenas fell ill with coronavirus. Earlier in October, a bear cat and a coati were infected. At the Belgian Zoo in early December, two hippos fell victim to COVID-19. They were all the first of their kind to contract the virus. In the United States alone, cases have been reported in 315 animals of 15 different species, with the exception of minks, which are not on this list. Among the sick animals were cats, dogs, tigers, lions, snow leopards, gorillas, otters, etc. In addition, minks fell ill in almost all fur farms. How does this threaten us and animals, and why did they often become infected at all?

Animals are increasingly beginning to get sick with COVID-19

What animals are sick with coronavirus

According to experts, cases of infectionthe coronavirus mainly affected carnivorous mammals. Many predators have become infected with the coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic. In particular, domestic cats, as well as some wild animals of the feline squad, are among the first cases. But this does not mean that predators are more susceptible. According to Elizabeth Lennon, a veterinarian at the University of Pennsylvania, there is little data to draw any conclusions.

Felines turned out to be the most susceptible to coronavirus

The only thing we can say with confidence is thatincreased susceptibility to the virus is found in large felines. This feature can be traced in all zoos. From this we can conclude that some animals are more susceptible to infection than others.

New mutations become dangerous for animals

The situation with the spread of coronavirus has becomechange with the advent of new strains. For example, bats were not infected with the original SARS-CoV-2 virus. But the study showed they were susceptible to the beta. By the way, a virus almost identical to SARS-CoV-2 was found in bats not only in Asia, but also in Britain. In theory, it can interbreed with SARS-CoV-2, and become dangerous to humans, as I talked about earlier.

In November, hyenas became infected with coronavirus for the first time in the United States

According to Diego Diehl, Associate Professor and DirectorVirology laboratories at Cornell University, as people develop new variants, the virus can expand its range of hosts. In other words, it mutates to infect more species and potentially "quietly" circulate among them, creating a new reservoir.

But, so far there is no reason for panic.There is currently no evidence that any species of animals, including domestic animals, can transmit the virus to humans. The only exceptions are minks, which have already shown their ability to infect humans.

Mink was able to infect humans with coronavirus

It should be noted that most animals inThe United States experienced only mild symptoms and fully recovered. The most severe cases of the disease were noted in the snow leopard and mink. At the Lincoln Zoo in Nebraska, three snow leopards died in November from complications from COVID-19. But, it is unclear if they had underlying medical conditions. In addition, thousands of minks died in 17 fur farms. Millions more were put to sleep on farms in Denmark and the Netherlands.

Buddy, the first dog to be confirmedtested positive for COVID-19 in the US, died in July, but likely had lymphoma, which experts say could play a role.

Why is it important to study the spread of COVID-19 in animals

The emergence of every species that can be infectedthe virus could have serious consequences and change the course of a pandemic. Finding out if a species can become a reservoir for the virus is critical, the researchers say. I talked about what a reservoir is in the article on the Ebola virus.

“Animals pose different and unknown risks.It is of course important that surveillance of many different species continues because the virus is widespread, ”says Elizabeth Lennon, a veterinarian at the University of Pennsylvania.

According to experts, the number of cases of infectionthere are probably many more animals in the world than statistics show. If an animal does not show symptoms, it is not tested. But, such animals are the most dangerous, as they can be hidden distributors.

Scientists find COVID-19 is asymptomatic in white-tailed deer

Now scientists are especially closely watchingwhite-tailed deer. A study by the USDA this year found that 40 percent of these animals have antibodies to the coronavirus. In the course of this study, specialists took blood for analysis from more than 600 individuals. In November, COVID-19 was detected in three deer in Canada, but none of the animals appeared to be sick.

There is no evidence that deer cantransmit the virus to humans or other species. However, there is a potential hazard. If a virus spreads unnoticed and even mutates in a large population of animals, it is much more difficult to control and eradicate.

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According to experts, although COVID-19 is, infirst of all, human disease, the growing number of species susceptible to the virus, should be a wake-up call. The challenge for scientists now is to closely monitor different species, as well as new strains such as Omicron. Otherwise, the situation with a pandemic could worsen significantly.