Zookeepers dumbfounded after two hippos test positive for Covid in bizarre world first

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The Antwerp Zoo in Belgium has announced two hippos have tested positive for coronavirus and have been put into quarantine as a precaution. Zoo staff have assured that hippos Imani, aged 14, and 41-year-old Hermien are not yet exhibiting any symptoms besides a runny nose.

The Zoo’s vet Francis Vercammen told Reuters: “To my knowledge, this is the first time in this species.

“Worldwide, this virus has been reported mainly in great apes and felines.”

The Belgian zoo is looking into the cause of infection, but has revealed none of the zookeepers have tested positive nor exhibited coronavirus symptoms, according to the Antwerp Zoo.

While this reported case may be the first found in hippos, it is not the first case of Covid in animals.

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The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has recorded 598 coronavirus outbreaks in animals, which has affected 14 species in 30 different countries up to the end of October.

Almost all have involved captive animals in close contact with humans, but little is known how prevalent the virus is among wildlife because there has been little testing.

A recent report announced six Canadian zoos are awaiting a shipment of Covid jabs which has been developed specifically for animals.

US pharmaceutical company Zoetis is donating 900 doses of the vaccine, which is meant to be administered in two doses and three weeks apart, to the zoos this winter and will be enough to protect 450 animals.

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Dolf DeJong, chief executive of the Toronto Zoo told Global News: “We’re trying to be patient.”

“Our team’s been really busy making sure the animals are ready for that injection as soon as it arrives.”

However, vaccines have already been administered in some zoos in the States.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington started administering the vaccine last month.

So far, about 35 animals have received both doses and the same amount have received their first jab.

It is estimated all animals will have both inoculations by January.

This came after several of the zoo’s lions and tigers tested positive for COVID-19.

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