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Monkeys steal blood samples of three coronavirus patients from lab worker, eat surgical gloves

A monkey reportedly attacked a lab technician, who was carrying blood samples from three coronavirus patients due for testing
UPDATED MAY 30, 2020
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

In a bizarre incident, a monkey snatched and fled with blood samples of coronavirus patients at an Indian government hospital. The incident took place at the Lala Lajpat Rai Memorial Medical College, which is located in the Meerut district of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

A monkey reportedly attacked a lab technician, who was carrying blood samples from three coronavirus patients due for testing. The animal snatched the sample box with three samples and escaped. “Monkeys grabbed and fled with the blood samples of Covid-19 patients who are undergoing treatment...we had to take their blood samples again,” said Dr S K Garg, principal of Lala Lajpat Rai Medical College, Meerut, according to Reuters. 

While the incident took place earlier this week, it came to light after a video went viral on social media. According to reports of the video that went viral, the monkey then sat atop a tree in the hospital premises trying to eat what looks like surgical gloves he stole along with the samples. “The animal can be seen dropping something, which looks to be a white disposable glove, to the ground before chewing on another,” says The Independent.

Hospital authorities have clarified that the samples were not throat swabs used to confirm Covid-19 positivity in a person, but regular blood samples taken from already infected patients being treated here. They were taken as part of routine blood tests for the patients. Hospital authorities also explained that coronavirus samples are stored and transported in cold chain boxes, not in the open, indicating that chances of throat swab samples meeting a similar fate was unlikely and people living in the hospitals' vicinity need not fear the spread of Covid-19 because of the incident.

According to hospital authorities, the sample boxes were later recovered and had not been damaged. Authotiries said they do not believe that there is any risk of contamination or spread. Dr Dheeraj Baliyan, medical superintendent of Lala Lajpat Rai Memorial Medical College, told CNN that no individual came into contact with the samples and the hospital authorities have sanitized the area and disposed of the samples snatched.

According to hospital authorities, the blood samples were later recovered, and they had not been damaged. (Getty Images)

There is ongoing debate among policymakers, scientists and the general public about where SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, came from. While researchers consider bats the most likely natural hosts for SARS-CoV-2, the origins of the virus are still unclear.

There have been reports of some animals testing positive for Covid-19. For example, five tigers and three lions had tested positive for Covid-19 at the Bronx Zoo in New York City, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the non-profit organization that runs the zoo. Two house cats in New York had also tested positive for the coronavirus. There is no evidence currently that the disease can be passed to humans from these animals. “We do not know the exact source of the current outbreak of Covid-19, but we know that it originally came from an animal source. At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes Covid-19. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading Covid-19 to people is considered to be low. We are still learning about this virus, but it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations,” says the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Dr Garg told Reuters that currently it is not clear if monkeys could contract the novel coronavirus if they came into contact with infected blood. “No evidence has been found that monkeys can contract the infection,” he said.