Thursday 6 May 2021

Is India creating a reservoir for Covid-19 in its animal population?

It has been mooted before that there is a potential for a reservoir of the Covid-19 virus to be built up within the animal population both domestic and wild and this issue needs to be addressed. It comes to mind particularly because I was a little shocked but perhaps unsurprised to read that 35 zookeepers at Hyderabad's Nehru Zoological Park have tested positive for the virus. As a consequence eight of the zoo's Asiatic lions contracted the disease. It is believed, and it's entirely plausible, that the lions contracted the disease from zookeepers, surrounded as they were by a large number of infected humans.

Is India creating a reservoir for Covid-19 in its animal population?
Asiatic lion that caught Covid-19 from one of 35 zookeepers who tested positive for Covid-19. Photo: Jam Press.

The experts still say that there is no evidence that lions and other animals can transmit the disease back to humans but it seems entirely possible and indeed likely that they do because as this disease can travel between human and animal, it can move between animal and human. After all that's exactly how humans got it in the first place i.e. from a wet market in Wuhan ostensibly from a pangolin which got the disease from a bat but because China has been so secretive about it we don't know for sure.

The idea of animals, regrettably, forming a reservoir for the disease is brought into focus by this story from Hyderabad, India. India is suffering an enormous surge in infections at over 400,000 per day at the date of this post. They are grossly underestimating, or misrepresenting for political reasons, the deaths which everybody realises. The pictures of funeral pyres in car parks tells the true story. The death rate is probably 10 times higher than the official figures whoch are at around 3,500 dead. This would make the true figure near 35k.

Indeed, the BBC reported on 13 funeral pyres outside, I believe. Modi's residence and the government declared that there were just seven so a blatant misrepresentation has been perpetrated but the news is obviously distorted.

The point though is that when there are such vast numbers of infections, and the infection level is probably much higher than the high level stated, it seems highly likely that animals are being infected at a similar rate but nobody knows what is going on because India is overrun by this virus.

The Indian government does not want to put the country back into lockdown because around 80% of the 400 million Indian workforce are casual labourers being paid by the day. If they don't work they don't earn anything and they can starve to death. In the last lockdown they all went back to their homes so Modi and his government can't lock the country down to try and curb the virus.

Despite being the global centre of vaccination production, India is running out of vaccination and their rate of vaccination is incredibly low because of catastrophic logistics. It just seems to be a complete disaster, top to bottom, and there is going to be a long, long journey back to normality if and when it happens.

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