A gang of monkeys “grabbed and fled” with coronavirus-infected blood samples after attacking a laboratory technician in India, authorities have said.
The attack occurred when the technician was walking in the campus of a state-run medical college in Meerut, 460 km (285 miles) north of Lucknow, capital of Uttar Pradesh state.
Authorities said they were not clear if the monkeys had spilled the blood samples, but people living near the leafy campus feared further spread of the virus if the monkeys carried the samples into residential areas.
Dr S.K. Garg, a top official at the college, said: “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.”
He added it was not clear if the monkeys could contract the coronavirus if they came into contact with infected blood.
The virus is believed to have jumped from animals into people in a wildlife market in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
India has had 165,799 cases of the coronavirus and 4,706 deaths.
Monkeys have been increasingly straying into human settlements in India and causing disturbances, even attacking people.
Environmentalists say the destruction of natural habitat is the main reason the animals move into urban areas in search of food.