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Op-Ed: Grim news – Lions in South Africa and rats in NYC have COVID, spread can loop back to humans

The virus could spread through the food chain.

Asian markets rise as Covid fears ease
US approval of Pfizer's anti-Covid pill and studies indicating Omicron infections were less likely to result in hospitalisation have cheered markets - Copyright Pfizer/AFP/File Handout
US approval of Pfizer's anti-Covid pill and studies indicating Omicron infections were less likely to result in hospitalisation have cheered markets - Copyright Pfizer/AFP/File Handout

In a totally unwelcome bit of news, South African research has confirmed the spread of COVID to zoo lions due to human exposure. The lions were seriously ill. In the wild, the spread of the virus could be catastrophic.  

This “viral feedback” to animals could be very complex to deal with. If proximity contact with humans is actively contagious to animals, the world has a new, critical, problem which could be unmanageable.

Spread could already be happening. I checked rats+COVID, and, no surprise at all, evidence was found “pointing to infection and mutations” in rats and dogs in New York last year.  If rodents can get COVID, it’s a much tougher, truly worldwide, major issue. Rodents are global and can infect just about anything within their proximity. (Well publicized, that bit of news wasn’t. Probably wouldn’t matter if it was. The US is so obsessed with politics that nothing else seems to register.)

In other words, there are many more vectors for the virus to mutate and re-emerge, jumping back to humans. Whether or not this added dimension to the virus had anything to do with the Omicron strain would be hard to prove.

The contagious factor is very important. Carnivores in the wild and rats in cities can’t exactly practice social distancing. The virus could spread through the food chain.  It could also create new strains based on new sources of DNA and RNA.

 It’s hardly reassuring to know the virus could be branching out to such high-density populations of animals which typically inhabit human environs. If this is the case, we’ve moved on to an imponderable scenario of infection, mutation, and reinfection.

From an evolutionary perspective, the virus has given itself more options for infection by spreading to other high-volume population species. Therefore it can propagate more easily.

One of the imponderables, particularly for the coronaviruses, is that their cross-species infection is literally standard procedure for them. These viruses are highly adaptable, mutate fast, and can move on to new infection options on a routine basis.

The obvious issue is that a multi-species pandemic can also crash critical animal populations. That could easily apply to livestock. It would be extremely hard to manage any sort of immunological process for pigs, sheep, and cattle.

“Herd immunity”, that unspeakably stupid expression, could well be a contradiction in terms. Quite the opposite; the herd could be the best possible vector for the virus. There are lots of infection opportunities in a herd. If so, your food prices can be expected to skyrocket.

Bring in the experts, lose the idiots, particularly the politics.

A crash in the food supply can’t be anything but disastrous. The shambolic response to the human pandemic was bad enough. Millions of dead for the sake of a few self-righteous press releases doesn’t seem to work. Anti-basic hygiene is also not much of a stellar performer.

The politics are far worse than the pandemic. There are no excuses at all for this situation. “Choosing” to be infectious to other people hasn’t helped much, either.  It’s as good a way of making sure the pandemic goes on for as long as possible. In this enlightened social environment, irresponsibility rules.

…Now try getting these same idiots to understand something as complex as a crashed or severely compromised food chain. If you think food shortages due to supply chain issues are bad, this can be a lot worse. Whole classes of food may be in serious trouble. You can’t supply food that doesn’t exist.

Expertise, research, and incredible amounts of patience will be required if a food chain infection regime occurs. This is more new territory opened up by the virus. Working management methods will have to be developed.

That can’t happen in the presence of so many ignoramuses in positions of authority.

Let’s try a quiz for politicians:

  • What, exactly, are you representing? The virus, presumably? …Because you’re sure as hell not representing the best interests of humanity.
  • Why is it a good idea to have a disease running rampant worldwide? Running out of things to say on all your other total failures?
  • Who benefits from the pandemic? A useful question. No answers are expected, of course, but surely they’d like to be appropriately thanked?
  • If you “choose” to infect other people with a possibly fatal disease, why aren’t you in jail? You’re making a choice for other people.
  • Why is total systemic failure a reason to elect people? I’d love to see the political spin-morticians answer that one.
  • Do political donors have to be dropping dead before you do your jobs? How unpredictable. 

Humanity is its own worst enemy. Tolerating failure simply produces more failure. This severe risk to the food chain is a critical issue that if it happens won’t go away.

Plagues and pandemics never completely wipe out entire populations. Starvation and dislocation of essentials, however, do. Happy?   

Written By

Editor-at-Large based in Sydney, Australia.

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