Gorillas Contract Coronavirus From Human Handler
As many as eight gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are presumed to have contracted Covid-19 from a human handler.
One of the animals has tested positive, marking the first known transmission of the virus to apes, zoo officials said on Monday according to a report by The Mirror.
Three among the band of critically endangered western lowland gorillas at the sprawling wildlife park have shown symptoms of the respiratory virus, such as coughing.
However, none of them appear severely ill, and all are expected to fully recover, the zoo said in a statement.
Laboratory analysis of a fecal sample collected last Wednesday from one of two gorillas initially seen coughing detected the presence of the virus two days later, zoo spokesman Andrew James said.
The positive results were confirmed on Monday by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories, the zoo said on its website.
While the test was definitive for only a single animal, all eight gorillas are presumed by zoo officials to have been exposed to and possibly infected with SAR-CoV-2, the scientific name of the virus that causes Covid-19. In a fact sheet, the zoo said:
Gorilla troops live together in both our zoological natural habitat and the wild, and we have to assume, as we do with human families, that all members of the family group have been exposed.
The zoo further confirmed that the gorillas are believed to have contracted the virus from an asymptomatic staff member, despite adherence to strict bio-security protocols consistent with US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Zoo officials said they do not know how the coronavirus will ultimately affect gorillas or what additional symptoms may occur. Lisa Peterson, executive director of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, said in a statement:
Aside from some congestion and coughing, the gorillas are doing well. The troop remains quarantined together and are eating and drinking. We are hopeful for a full recovery.
The gorilla troop at the 1,800-acre San Diego Safari Park consists of five females and three males, including an elder “silverback” named Winston about 45 years old, James said.
At least eight other gorillas exhibited at the nearby San Diego Zoo were not affected. Both facilities have been closed to the public due to the pandemic since early December.