In 2009, the deaths of 2 mountain gorillas in the Virunga massif in Rwanda were confirmed to be caused by metapneumovirus, a human respiratory illness. With less than 800 mountain gorillas in the wild, illnesses passed from people is a serious concern given the frequency of gorilla contact with humans. With habitat destruction, these gorillas are limited to parks surrounded by dense human populations. Additionally, wildlife tourism brings many people to the region. Understanding how the transmission of diseases from humans to mountain gorillas occurs will be important in protecting this endangered species. As a result, The UC Davis Wildlife Health Center established the Mountain Gorilla One Health Program, which will work to protect gorillas by improving the health of humans and other animals in the surrounding area.
The research article on this topic, which recently appeared in the online edition of Emerging Infectious Diseases can be found here.