(STUDY) Probable transmission of Covid-19 from vaccinated zoo employee to lion to other vaccinated zoo employees in Indiana

Scientists formally acknowledge a fully vaccinated zoo employee apparently infected a lion with Covid, and the lion went on to infect other fully vaccinated employees.

The following is an excerpt from Medcsape.


We describe animal-to-human transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in a zoo setting in Indiana, USA. A vaccinated African lion with physical limitations requiring hand feeding tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 after onset of respiratory signs. Zoo employees were screened, monitored prospectively for onset of symptoms, then rescreened as indicated; results were confirmed by using reverse transcription PCR and whole-genome virus sequencing when possible.

Traceback investigation narrowed the source of infection to 1 of 6 persons. Three exposed employees subsequently had onset of symptoms, 2 with viral genomes identical to the lion’s. Forward contact tracing investigation confirmed probable lion-to-human transmission.

Close contact with large cats is a risk factor for bidirectional zoonotic SARS-CoV-2 transmission that should be considered when occupational health and biosecurity practices at zoos are designed and implemented. SARS-CoV-2 rapid testing and detection methods for big cats and other susceptible animals should be developed and validated to enable timely implementation of One Health investigations.


Although SARS-CoV-2 is primarily transmitted from person-to-person, it is considered zoonotic because of natural infections observed in a range of mammalian species. The broad host range of SARS-CoV-2 is evident from natural infections occurring in zoos, sanctuaries, and aquaria, most frequently in big cats, but also in mustelids, nonhuman primates, and others.

Zoo outbreaks typically begin after close contact with an infected zookeeper.  One Health investigations have shown transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from human to animals, but examples of animal-to-human transmission are rare.

We report a multispecies cluster of SARS-CoV-2 infections associated with an infected African lion (Panthera leo) at a seasonal, mid-sized, Association of Zoos and Aquariums–accredited zoo in Indiana, USA.

The lion’s likely source of exposure was a fully vaccinated, asymptomatic employee, and forward transmission from the lion to other fully vaccinated employees probably occurred.

Read full study here.

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3 thoughts on “(STUDY) Probable transmission of Covid-19 from vaccinated zoo employee to lion to other vaccinated zoo employees in Indiana”

  1. Why is it not mentioned in the article that the lion in question was geriatric, suffering from chronic kidney disease, AND was on immunosuppressive drugs?

    Wouldn’t we expect species-to-species viral transmission to be less rare under those specific circumstances?

    Perhaps we should be asking why fully-vaccinated individuals are apparently so easily able to both spread and contract their vaccine-targeted-virus.

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