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November 15, 2012

Have you had your flu shot yet?


It’s that time of year again, when we hear doctors and nurses urging us to get a flu shot.  Did you know that humans aren’t the only ones who can get the flu?  We share most of our DNA with great apes, and likewise, apes can get the flu too.

In Primate World, home to our Zoo’s orangutans and western lowland gorillas, Zookeepers and volunteers are the only humans our apes have contact with. That contact could potentially expose apes to germs. Keepers could potentially get a cold from an ape, but it is more likely that they could give an ape the sniffles.  A major concern for our orangutans and gorillas is that they don’t always react the same way to viruses as humans do; what may have been a mild cold for us, could make them much sicker.

Zookeepers protect our animals by wearing face masks whenever they are around primates or their food, and they wash their hands frequently. In the last few years, our Zookeepers and veterinarians have started to protect our apes even more by giving them a flu shot. 

Most of our apes have been trained by keepers to accept an injection into their arm. Just like humans, some of our apes are more reluctant than others, and some don’t seem to mind the shot at all.  After they get their flu shot, our apes get a really good treat that they would never get otherwise – usually a peanut butter sandwich.  This year, apes that were less excited about getting an injection were trained to let keepers squirt fluid up their nose - so they got the nasal vaccine.   

Keepers are very happy to give apes another protection against getting sick. The Zoo’s great apes are here to remind you, whether you get the flu shot, or the flu nasal vaccine, it’s time to protect yourself from the flu, too!  

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