Barcelona Zoo`s four lions have had covid

Two caregivers most likely transmitted the infection, but the cats are now cured

The four lions in Barcelona Zoo have also had coronavirus. In November, the cats showed upper respiratory symptoms compatible with the infection, and since two of their keepers had been diagnosed with covid, they were tested. Both the first rapid test and subsequent protocol-based PCR tests revealed that the lions had covid-19. This human-to-cat transmission is the most likely cause of infection in the zoo.

"During the second period in which the zoo has been closed, the lions have had covid," detailed the acting director of this facility, Juli Mauri, in an interview with Betevé, where he added that the four mammals are "the only" animals in the enclosure that have had the disease. Furthermore, Mauri stressed that "they are already cured" and that "they cannot transmit it to the public because you need very close contact".

The zoo has provided the lions - a  4-year-old male and three 16-year-old females - with continuous veterinary care for the clinical process they were experiencing, similar to that of a very mild flu, and has administered anti-inflammatory drugs. All four cats have responded well to treatment: at  no time did they have any difficulty breathing, and all symptoms disappeared after 15 days, except for coughing or sneezing.

In a statement from the Barcelona City Council, the veterinary service of the Barcelona Zoo informed the health authorities, who referred the case to the Animal Health Search Centre (CReSA). In addition, the Zoo has contacted and collaborated with international experts, such as the Bronx Zoo Veterinary Service in New York, the only one that had documented cases of covid-19 infection in cats.

In addition, following the detection of the four cases, rapid antigen tests were performed on all nearby caretakers to maximize prevention measures, and all results were negative. To avoid any risk of infection for the staff, specific working measures were put in place with the lions, and now all the carers wear FFP3 masks, screens, overalls and boots. "The animals may have covid and they may transmit it, of course, but this does not mean that they are more or less affected," Mauri explained in the same interview.

The acting director of the zoo pointed out that "there are many cats that have gone through it and that are already autoimmune, but they can transmit it", contrary to what an IRTA-CReSA study pointed out a few months ago. As for horses, however, everything points to the fact that they would be left out of the chain of contagion and transmission.

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