Several gorillas test positive for COVID-19 at San Diego Zoo - first known transmission of virus to a great ape

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Some gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the San Diego Zoo on social media Monday afternoon.

That marks the first known transmission of the virus to a great ape.

The San Diego Zoo said on its website that the two gorillas began coughing on Jan. 6. On Jan. 8, preliminary tests detected the presence of the virus in the gorilla troop. The U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) confirmed the positive results on Monday, January 11, according to the zoo.

The test results confirm the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in some of the gorillas and does not definitively rule out the presence of the virus in other members of the troop, the zoo said.

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

The zoo said it's suspected the gorillas got the infection from an asymptomatic staff member despite staff wearing PPE when near the animals and following the CDC and San Diego County Public Health guidelines.