Every year, Americans get roughly one billion colds. And the average child catches between six and 10 colds a year. These colds vary in severity, but usually, they can be treated with a little rest, some light medication, and a little more rest. For chimpanzees, however, the common cold can actually be quite deadly.
“This was an explosive outbreak of severe coughing and sneezing,” said Tony Goldberg, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and senior author of the new study that was published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.
According to Business Standard, the researchers found that a human’s common cold virus, known as rhinovirus C, was responsible for killing healthy chimpanzees during an outbreak back in 2013 in Uganda.
“It was completely unknown that rhinovirus C could infect anything other than humans,” Goldberg added. “It was surprising to find it in chimpanzees, and it was equally surprising that it could kill healthy chimpanzees outright.”
Quartz added that the scientists that investigated the Kibble National Park outbreak also found that prior to the 2013 case, it was completely unknown that the human virus could be deadly for chimps. During the outbreak in Uganda, five out of a community of 56 chimps were killed by the common cold.
Among the five dead, four were adults up to 57 years old and one, Betty, was a two-year-old.
More research is needed to identify whether to not there is an easy cure for the common cold in chimps, but scientists are skeptical. It’s important to note, however, that the rhinovirus C bug is actually one of the most severe and dangerous forms of the common cold to infect humans, causing serious health concerns in some instances.
“We’re thinking that rhinovirus C might be a major, missed cause of disease outbreaks in chimps in the wild,” Goldberg added.