Two gorillas test positive for Covid at zoo in San Diego

Clay Curtis
January 12, 2021

As many as eight gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are presumed to have contracted COVID-19 from a human handler after one of the animals tested positive, marking the first known transmission of the virus to apes, zoo officials said on Monday.

The safari park tested the gorillas using their fecal matter.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park, where the gorillas are kept, has been closed to visitors since early December as record cases began surging through Southern California.

Veterinarians are closely monitoring the gorillas and they will remain in their habitat at the park, north of San Diego, Ms Peterson said.

Three animals are now showing symptoms of the virus, and it is suspected that they were infected by an asymptomatic staff member, according to a press release.

The zoo says two members of the troop began exhibiting a cough on January 6.

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Zoo officials are talking to experts who have been treating the coronavirus in humans in case the animals' develop more severe symptoms. "The troop remains quarantined together and are eating and drinking". A preliminary test within the group showed presence of the virus on Friday, and the US Department of Agriculture's National Veterinary Services Laboratory confirmed the positive results Monday. "We are hopeful for a full recovery".

"For nearly 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 said.

The zoo adds that staff members wear PPE gear when around the gorillas.

But the gorillas in San Diego are believed to mark the first known case of infections confirmed in apes. Although the employee did not have COVID-19 symptoms, almost half of the pandemic's spread comes from asymptomatic infections, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.

Gorillas share 98% of human DNA, while chimpanzees and bonobos share 99%. At least eight other gorillas exhibited at the nearby San Diego Zoo were not affected. That was followed by the infection of several other tigers and lions. Previous research has shown that primates are susceptible to the virus.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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