Gorillas should be given a Covid-19 vaccination

Zoo gorillas should be given the Covid-19 vaccination because scientists have discovered that captive gorillas at a zoo in California have contracted the disease from, they believe, an asymptomatic member of staff. It is the first known instance of the virus spreading to great apes. Two gorillas at San Diego Zoo Safari Park started to cough last Wednesday. Tests were carried out but we don’t have the number of gorillas testing positive.

Gorilla San Diego Zoo
Gorilla San Diego Zoo. Image by Curtis Yancey from Pixabay

It is believed that the entire guerrilla troop has been exposed as they live together. At the moment three apes are showing signs of the illness and the entire troop has been exposed. The symptoms are relatively mild with congestion and coughing but the gorillas appear to be doing well.

The executive director of the zoo, Lisa Peterson, added that the troop is in quarantine, eating and drinking together and they are hopeful for a full recovery.

The zoo has been closed since December 6th because of the pandemic restrictions in the state of California. They are concerned because they don’t know how the symptoms will develop. There’s also the possibility of what is called “long-Covid”. These are symptoms which become chronic and last for a long time. The prognosis for long-Covid sufferers is yet to be decided as this is a developing situation.

The zoo is consulting with Covid-19 medical experts in case the apes become seirously ill. They share about 90% of our DNA. Although the gorillas at the zoo receive routine flu vaccinations they do not receive, currently, a Covid-19 vaccine but it seems to me that this will have to be reassessed in the light of developments.

As Covid-19 is a zoonotic disease i.e. it is transmittable from animals to people and vice versa, is unsurprising that other zoo animals have been infected by it including gorillas. Tigers were infected at Bronx Zoo, NYC. I recently wrote an article, which came from the thoughts of a scientist, concerning the possibility that animals may form a reservoir for the virus which may mutate in these animals who then transmit the mutated virus back to people. This must be a concern as well.

There is going to be a long process of recovery and management of the coronavirus. The vaccination programs will not be a silver bullet. There won’t be a sudden drop in infections and a deep sigh of relief. It will take time and it seems highly possible that people will have to succumb to an annual (if not more frequent) Covid-19 vaccination, as they do for the flu in many countries. It is expected that the Covid-19 virus will mutate many times going forward and therefore any new vaccines would be modified to cope with this. Although, it is said, that the two current mutations that we know well, namely the South African mutation and the UK mutation can be treated adequately with the existing vaccines. They are, however, doing more work on this.


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