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Safari Park Gorillas Recovering From More Contagious Strain Of COVID-19; San Diego Zoo Receives Vaccine Intended For Animals

SAN DIEGO (CBSLA) — The gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are on their way to a full recovery after being diagnosed with COVID-19, zoo officials said Monday.

Gorillas recover San Diego Zoo Safari Park
(credit: San Diego Zoo)

San Diego Zoo officials say the eight-member troop is eating, drinking, and interacting normally after several members' feces tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The troop had been infected with the B.1.429 variant of coronavirus, which is on the rise in California and officials say is more contagious than other strains.

The troop was tested after some of the gorillas showed symptoms, including mild coughing, congestion, nasal discharge and intermittent lethargy. Zoo officials went the extra step with the troop's silverback, Winston, due to his advanced age and concern for his underlying medical conditions.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park silverback Winston
(credit: San Diego Zoo)

Winston underwent a diagnostic examination under anesthesia, and was confirmed to have pneumonia and heart disease. He was then treated with a monoclonal antibody therapy that has not been permitted for human use, but is believed to be effective in lessening the effects of the virus.

The zoo says it has also been given a limited supply of a recombinant purified spike protein vaccine, which came from a supply strictly intended for nonhuman use and can protect animals against COVID-19. The San Diego Zoo has begun identifying animal candidates for vaccination at both the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Safari Park.

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