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Last week, two gorillas at the San Diego Zoo were infected with COVID-19. An asymptomatic zoo staff member transmitted the disease to them. So far they are fine, just experiencing coughing and congestion. This is the first known case of the coronavirus afflicting great apes, but it has been detected in a few other zoo animals. One animal species hard hit globally by the virus is minks. Here in the U.S., COVID-19 cases are confirmed at 16 mink farms in four states: twelve in Utah, one in Michigan, one in Oregon, and two in Wisconsin. Farms in Europe performed mass culling, and while no mink farms here have culled their animals, thousands have died of COVID-19.
Why this Matters: The virus can mutate in animals and spread back to humans, producing newer —and potentially deadlier—variants of COVID-19, though this is rare. Danish mink farms produced a new strain of COVID named “Cluster 5” that has already infected at least twelve people. It is hard to control the spread of the disease in animals as well as humans, wreaking havoc on domestic animals and wild animal communities throughout the world.
COVID Spreads to Animals
These gorillas could pass the virus to the other members of their troop since they live in close contact within their enclosure. And previous research suggests that other primates may also be susceptible. The gorillas began coughing last Wednesday, and it’s still unclear whether the gorillas will have a serious reaction. In a press release from the San Diego Zoo, Lisa Peterson, executive director of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, said “ Aside from some congestion and coughing, the gorillas are doing well. The troop remains quarantined together and are eating and drinking. We are hopeful for a full recovery.”
This influx of infections in animals shows how interconnected our lives are with those of the animals that surround us. Across the country, the number of Americans diagnosed with COVID surpassed 22 million over the weekend, so we must be more careful than ever not to spread the virus to animals as well as our fellow humans.
To Go Deeper: The CDC suggests that it is rare for animals to spread COVID back to humans, but if you’re concerned about COVID spreading to your pets, be sure to keep them from interacting with strangers, and from roaming freely outside. See this page from the CDC for more details.
After a week of being on the loose in Houston, a 9-month-old tiger named India was found this weekend and appeared to be unharmed. India was spotted by a group of residents as he was prowling around a local neighborhood. As NBC News reported, India will be transported to the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch […]
by Minka Kelly, Actress and IFAW Global Ambassador As a Global Ambassador for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), I’ve known for years that there are more tigers in captivity in the U.S. than remain free in the wild today. Hearing this stunning fact never fails to shock me. I’ve had the opportunity to […]
A coalition of environmental groups is urging the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to set an 11.5 mph limit on shipping speeds in an 11,500 square mile stretch of water off the Gulf Coast of Florida and Alabama.
Why This Matters: Whales, despite operating at the top of their food chains, face mass casualties and mortal threats from human activity.
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