Gorillas in a troop housed at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Two members of the troop began coughing on January 6th, and testing of fecal samples occured at the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System, with confirmatory tests occurring at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL).
According to the press release from San Diego Zoo Safari Park the animals are doing well, exhibiting mild symptoms and are eating and drinking normally. The animals in the affected troop are quarantining together and a full recovery is anticipated.As the outbreak investigation continues, it is expected that an asymptomatic staff member may have inadvertently been the source of infection, despite following all safety guidelines as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local public health. Since the Park has been closed since December 6th, and the animals and guests are at a safe distance from each other at all times, this poses no risk to the public.
Additional information is avaliable in the press release from the Safari Park linked above and the confirmation announcement from USDA-APHIS.
Several scientific publications have recognized the increased likelihood of non-human primate susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2, but this is the first known natural transmission likely occurring between man and great apes. The veterinary advisors for the AZA Gorilla Species Survival Plan and Ape Taxon Advisory Group have updated the Corona virus disease (COVID-19): considerations for Great Apes in human care to reflect this, and remind facility owners and operators to enforce PPE and social distancing for all staff and susceptible animals and remain diligent in watching for any signs of SARS-CoV-2 in staff and/or animals.