Members of a troop of gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, Calif., have tested positive for the coronavirus. Last Wednesday, two of the gorillas developed a cough and showed other mild symptoms, a news release says. Park staff tested the animals. A fecal examination detected the virus last Friday, and the results were confirmed by the Agriculture Department's National Veterinary Services Laboratories on Monday.
"Aside from some congestion and coughing, the gorillas are doing well," said Executive Director Lisa Peterson. "The troop remains quarantined together and are eating and drinking. We are hopeful for a full recovery."
Park staff members have been taking measures since the onset of the pandemic last year to avoid contamination. Staff members wear masks and wash their hands frequently. They even have dedicated uniforms that must be worn while working around wildlife. Despite these precautions, park officials suspect the gorillas contracted the virus from an asymptomatic worker.
San Diego Zoo Global, which owns the park, says the infected gorillas pose no threat to the public. The park is currently closed to visitors, and even under normal operating circumstances, there is no logical reason guests would come into contact with a 300-pound gorilla.
This is the first known natural transmission of the coronavirus to great apes, the news release says. But other animals were infected with the virus last year. Last spring, a four-year-old Malayan tiger in New York was the first animal in the U.S. to test positive for the coronavirus. And in Denmark, the government killed an estimated 17 million minks in November after discovering they could carry the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that cats and dogs can also become infected. Studies to understand how the coronavirus affects different animals are ongoing, and it is unclear whether some animals can spread the infection to people, the CDC said.