San Diego Zoo Gorillas Test Positive for COVID-19

San Diego Zoo Gorillas Test Positive for COVID-19

It is believed that the gorillas may have caught the infection from an asymptomatic staff member.
san diego zoo gorillas

Image credit: San Diego Zoo

In what is the first of such cases among great apes, at least two gorillas from the San Diego Zoo, California, have been infected with COVID-19. This was announced by zoo officials on Monday, 12 January. The two San Diego Zoo gorillas were seen displaying symptoms of the virus like coughing and confirmed to have the virus, while a third is beginning to show similar symptoms as well.

While earlier research has shown that non-human primates can also be susceptible to catching the COVID-19 virus, there have been no reported cases until now. It is believed that the gorillas may have caught the infection from an asymptomatic staff member, despite following all recommended precautions including COVID-19 safety protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and San Diego County Public Health, as well as wearing PPE when near the gorillas. 

Spread and effect of virus unknown for now

The two San Diego Zoo gorillas were tested positive after fecal samples from them were tested in a preliminary round of tests on 8 January, which revealed the presence of the virus. Further testing confirmed the virus and identified the members affected. Gorillas are communal animals that live in a close family unit, so it is still not clear whether the virus is present in all other members of the gorilla troop. It is also unknown if the apes would have any serious reaction to the disease at this point.

“Aside from some congestion and coughing, the gorillas are doing well,” said Lisa Peterson, executive director, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “The troop remains quarantined together and are eating and drinking. We are hopeful for a full recovery.”

Also read: Singapore To Begin COVID-19 Vaccinations On 30 Dec 2020

Not quite California dreaming

California has become the epicentre of the current coronavirus surge in the United States. Since the start of the pandemic in the country, the state has seen hospitals and morgues overflowing, with the coronavirus claiming more than 30,000 lives to date. With the San Diego Zoo gorillas now part of the infected, the zoo has assured that there’s no public risk from this outbreak. 

As of December last year, San Diego Zoo has been closed to the public. Biosecurity measures have also been in place, including the wearing of masks at all times, frequent hand washing, physical distancing, heightened cleaning protocols, dedicated overalls and uniforms for working around wildlife and limiting staff access to highly susceptible species.

More information and updates on the gorillas can be found on the San Diego Zoo website. Here’s hoping that the gentle giants will have a speedy recovery soon. 

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Shawn Tan
Shawn Tan

Shawn believes that travel is a state of mind. Whether it is winding through the bustling medinas of Marrakech or the morning ritual of brewing coffee, travelling to him is all about being lost in the moment.


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