Monkeys snatch COVID-19 blood samples after attacking lab worker in India

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In this undated photo provided by the California National Primate Research Center, rhesus monkeys are seen in their outdoor enclosure at the California National Primate Research Center in Davis, Calif. A group of the animals exposed to wildfire smoke as infants have developed lungs that are about 20 percent smaller than other rhesus monkeys. (CNPRC/Univeristy California Davis via AP)

INDIA (CBS) — A group of monkeys in India swiped blood samples from coronavirus patients from a local medical college, stoking fears they could further the virus’ spread in nearby regions, Reuters reported on Friday. Before they fled the scene, the monkeys attacked a health worker, according to authorities cited by the outlet.

The incident occurred this week at Meerut Medical College in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The troop of monkeys attacked a laboratory technician who was walking across the campus holding the blood samples before taking the samples for themselves, according to Reuters.

“Monkeys grabbed and fled with the blood samples of four COVID-19 patients who are undergoing treatment,” Dr. S. K. Garg, a top official at the college, told the outlet. “We had to take their blood samples again,” he said.

After footage of the incident went viral on social media, Garg emphasized that the samples taken were routine blood samples, not COVID-19 swab test samples.

Authorities said they weren’t sure if any of the samples spilled when the monkeys stole them, Reuters reported. Researchers have not found evidence that monkeys could contract the virus if they came into direct contact with the samples.

People living near the campus were concerned the virus could spread further if the monkeys entered residential areas and the blood samples were opened.

But according to AFP, officials were able to recover the sample boxes after the monkeys took them up some nearby trees. Superintendent Dheeraj Raj said the samples were still intact and officials do not believe there is an increased risk of contamination or spread.

India has over 173,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and about 5,000 deaths, according to John’s Hopkins University. Wild animals, including monkeys, are roaming the streets in droves as people stay indoors under lockdown.

As the country struggles to contain the virus, it is also battling a devastating locust infestation and record 122-degree heat.

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