Gorillas Getting Vaccinated for Swine Flu in Boston



Who knew?

The zookeepers are also vaccinated to protect the animals.

The zoo vaccinates each of its six western lowland gorillas annually against the flu, using vaccine donated from human hospitals. This year, the primates are getting both the standard flu shot -- to be administered next week, courtesy of Children's Hospital -- and the H1N1 vaccine.

"Gorillas share over 98 percent genetic homology to humans, so they're susceptible to the same diseases, the same viruses that humans are, so we often use human developed vaccines to protect them against the same diseases," said Dr. Eric Baitchman, director of veterinary services for Zoo New England, which oversees the Franklin Park and Stone zoos.

About once a month, Joe gets a saline injection as a practice shot for his annual vaccines. He does his medical tricks in full view of zoo visitors, at the caged training door, while the other gorillas in the habitat perform their routines in their private sleeping quarters. Because Joe is the dominant one, he controls the training door, which is equated with treats -- in this case, the crushed granola bar -- not normally included in the regular diet of fruits, vegetables, and high-fiber monkey chow.

(hat tip flutrackers/pathfinder)