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In November 2021, seven western lowland gorillas and four Asiatic lions were diagnosed with COVID-19 at Rotterdam Zoo. An outbreak investigation was undertaken to determine the source and extent of the outbreak and to identify possible transmission routes. Interviews were conducted with staff to identify human and animal contacts and cases, compliance with personal protective equipment (PPE) and potential transmission routes. Human and animal contacts and other animal species suspected to be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 were tested for SARS-CoV-2 RNA. Positive samples were subjected to sequencing. All the gorillas and lions that could be tested (3/7 and 2/4, respectively) were RT-PCR positive between 12 November and 10 December 2021. No other animal species were SARS-CoV-2 RNA positive. Forty direct and indirect human contacts were identified. Two direct contacts tested RT-PCR positive 10 days after the first COVID-19 symptoms in animals. The zookeepers’ viral genome sequences clustered with those of gorillas and lions. Personal protective equipment compliance was suboptimal at instances. Findings confirm transmission of SARS-CoV-2 among animals and between humans and animals but source and directionality could not be established. Zookeepers were the most likely source and should have periodic PPE training. Sick animals should promptly be tested and isolated/quarantined.


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