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(CMR) Gorillas at San Diego Zoo are to be vaccinated after some of them tested positive for COVID-19.
A supply of the vaccine not permitted for use in people will be given to a few gorillas, zoo officials said.
“The hope is that we would be able to vaccinate wildlife that would be susceptible to illness and then prevent them from ever catching it,” San Diego Safari Park executive director Lisa Peterson told the San Diego Tribune.
There were concerns after positive results were confirmed for two animals tested earlier this month.
It is believed that the animals were infected by a staff member who also tested positive for the virus but was asymptomatic and had worn a mask at all times around the gorillas.
Peterson said the animals appeared to have recovered as tests conducted recently have not returned a positive result.
She said, “We’re not seeing any of that lethargy. No coughing, no runny noses anymore. It feels to us like we’ve turned the corner.”
Veterinarians have monitored the eight gorillas at the zoo after two tested positive for the coronavirus.
The troop's leader, a 49-year-old silverback named Winston, was observed under anesthesia.
Along with Rady Children’s Hospital, the veterinary team took blood samples and a nasal swab and performed an echocardiogram and ultrasound.
They found that Winston had pneumonia, likely due to COVID-19, as well as heart disease, one of the underlying medical conditions that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have linked to more severe coronavirus infections.
The ape has since received antibody treatment, which was also not permitted for use in humans.
Nearly all of the veterinarians and others at the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park who work directly with animals have received a COVID-19 vaccine, Peterson told San Diego Tribune.