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Monkeys on the loose in India with stolen coronavirus blood samples

A troop of monkeys attacked a lab technician in India and stole blood samples of patients who tested positive for COVID-19, authorities confirmed on Friday.

According to Reuters, the eccentric attack happened this week after a laboratory technician was walking on the campus of a state-run medical college in Meerut near Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh state.

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

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Police said it was unclear if the monkeys spilled any of the blood samples, as some residents feared the spread of the virus if the monkeys came near homes or urban areas.

Garg also told Reuters it was not known if the monkeys could contract COVID-19 if they came in contact with the blood samples.

“No evidence has been found that monkeys can contract the infection,” he said.

The coronavirus, which has spread to more than 5.8 million people globally, is believed to have originated at a wildlife market in Wuhan, China, late last year.

India has reported nearly 170,000 cases of the virus and 4,820 fatalities associated with it, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Environmentalists in India are monitoring increased attacks and disturbances from monkeys on people, attributing the uptick as a result of the destruction of natural habitats forcing the animals closer to urban areas.