Gorillas Test Positive for COVID-19 at California Zoo

This is the first known instance of COVID-19 among non-human primates in captivity.
Derya Ozdemir

As COVID-19 cases in California see a dramatic surge with confirmed cases to date reaching 2,710,801, what is believed to be the first known instance of COVID-19 among primates in captivity has been reported. Two gorillas at the San Diego Zoo has tested positive for coronavirus, according to a press release by the zoo officials.

The staff was reportedly following the recommended precautions for COVID-19 and wearing PPE when near the gorillas; however, the officials at the zoo's Safari Park stated they believe an asymptomatic staff member infected the animals.

Three of the gorillas are currently showing symptoms of coronavirus.

Some of the gorillas are showing symptoms

It was first seen on Wednesday, January 6 that the two of the gorillas were coughing. While gorillas can cough for any number of reasons, San Diego Zoo Global decided to test fecal samples from the gorillas for SARS-CoV-2 given the current circumstances. The samples were sent to the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System.

The tests detected the virus in the gorilla troop, with the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) confirming the rest results on January 11.

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

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While previous studies had verified that some non-human primates are susceptible to infection with SARS-CoV-2, this is the first known instance of natural transmission to great apes, per the press release. Researchers don't know if the gorillas will have any severe reactions. 

This makes gorillas the seventh animal species to have contracted the virus after confirmed infections in tigers, lions, mink, snow leopards, dogs, and domestic cats.

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