San Diego: Several gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in California, have tested positive for Covid-19, in the first known instance of natural transmission to the species, officials said.
Officials of the San Diego Zoo Global, which operates the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, said in a statement on Monday that they initiated the process of testing fecal samples from the gorillas through the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System after two of the animals began coughing on January 6, reports Xinhua news agency.
The US Department of Agriculture National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed the positive results on Monday.
The test results confirmed the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, in some of the gorillas and does not definitively rule out the presence of the virus in other members of the troop, according to the press release.
“Aside from some congestion and coughing, the gorillas are doing well,” Lisa Peterson, executive director, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, said, adding that those gorillas remain quarantined together and are eating and drinking.
Officials said it was suspected that the gorillas acquired the infection from an asymptomatic staff member, despite following all recommended precautions including Covid-19 safety protocols from public health authorities as well as wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) when near the gorillas.
“Research studies have verified that some non-human primates are susceptible to infection with SARS-CoV-2, but this is the first known instance of natural transmission to great apes and it is unknown if they will have any serious reaction,” officials said.
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park, a major tourist attraction in the county, has been closed to the public since December 6, 2020 under regional stay-at-home order in response to the Covid-19 surge.
There have been reports of animals being infected with Covid-19 worldwide.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted on its official website that there is risk of people spreading the virus to animals and the first American case of an animal testing positive for Covid-19 was a tiger at a New York zoo.