Two gorillas at San Diego Zoo Safari Park have COVID-19

Members of the gorilla troop at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have tested positive for COVID-19 in what is believed to the world’s first cases of the virus in the great ape species.

The infection is believed to have been introduced by an asymptomatic worker, the zoo said. The virus is rampant in California, which has seen more than 2.7 million cases and nearly 30,000 deaths since the pandemic began.

“Aside from some congestion and coughing, the gorillas are doing well,” Lisa Peterson, the zoo’s executive director, said in a statement Monday. “The troop remains quarantined together and are eating and drinking. We are hopeful for a full recovery.”

Two members of the troop began coughing Jan. 6.

Fecal samples were taken and sent to the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System. On Jan. 8, preliminary tests were a “tentative positive” for virus, and then the U.S Department of Agriculture National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed COVID-19 on Jan. 11. 

While the tests confirm the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in some of the gorillas, it doesn’t rule it out in others. Three of them are coughing and have mild symptoms similar to those in people.

Since gorillas live together in a troop — as they do in the wild — officials assume just like human families, all members of the gorilla family have been exposed to the virus.

They are being closely observed and there is nothing to suggest today that they won’t make a full recovery, the zoo added.

“We do not know how SARS-CoV-2 will ultimately affect gorillas and do not know what additional symptoms may occur. Those gorillas with signs of illness such as coughing are under veterinary supervision,” the facility explained.

Gorilla troop members. Photo: San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The facility has been closed to the public since early December, and staff have adhered to strict public health orders while caring for the animals.

Workers have kept their distance, followed hand washing procedures and wore PPE.

“For almost one year our team members have been working tirelessly, with the utmost determination to protect each other and the wildlife in our care from this highly contagious virus,” Peterson added. “The safety of our staff and the wildlife in our care remains our number one priority.”

While studies have found some non-human primates could contract the virus, this is the first known instance of natural transmission to great apes from people.

And, since the cases are so new, it’s not clear if the animals will have any serious reaction. 

Members of our gorilla troop have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The test results…

Posted by San Diego Zoo Safari Park on Monday, January 11, 2021

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