At least two gorillas at the San Diego Zoo have tested positive for COVID-19, the zoo has announced. They aren’t the first animals to contract the coronavirus in this pandemic, and they probably won’t be the last.
Which animals can get the coronavirus?
Besides the gorillas, we know that some tigers and lions at the Bronx zoo tested positive for COVID in April. Studies conducted by veterinarians have also found COVID in cats and dogs who picked up the coronavirus from their human families. And perhaps most concerning, there have been outbreaks in mink at fur farms in multiple countries.
Scientists aren’t too surprised that the coronavirus can sometimes jump species; other (non-pandemic) coronaviruses have been known to infect dogs and other animals.
Can animals give the coronavirus to humans?
Not usually. The dogs, cats, and zoo animals who have COVID seem to have picked it up from people, not the other way around.
But the mink are different. Mink in European fur farms caught the coronavirus, passed it to each other, and were apparently able to infect humans. The Danish government, noting that mutations traced to mink were present in at least a dozen human cases of COVID, ordered that all farmed mink in the country be killed.
What happens when an animal gets the coronavirus?
Some of the animals that tested positive for COVID exhibited respiratory symptoms, like coughing and shortness of breath.
If your pet seems to be sick, consult a veterinarian for advice. Since COVID cases in animals are rare, they may not necessarily recommend a COVID test, but they can provide appropriate care and advice depending on your pet’s symptoms.
What should I do if I have a pet?
“Treat pets as you would other human family members,” the CDC advises. This means keeping them away from other people and pets that don’t live in your household. This includes keeping cats indoors and walking dogs on a leash to make sure they’re not interacting with others when they’re out of your sight.
Both the CDC and the American Veterinary Medical Association agree that pets don’t commonly get the coronavirus; it’s possible, they say, but rare.
If you or someone in your home is sick, keep the pet away from that person. This may mean asking someone else to feed your pet, for example. If you cannot avoid contact with your pet, the AVMA recommends wearing a mask, washing your hands before and after touching them, and not sharing food, kissing, or hugging your pet — for their own safety.