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Gorilla on mend from valley fever at zoo

Jabari, a western lowland gorilla living at the Los Angeles Zoo, is on the mend after receiving treatment for a severe case of valley fever.

The great ape has had the fungal infection for about three years and had lost about a fifth of his body weight, the Los Angeles Times reported.

But after giving Jabari a checkup on Thursday, veterinarians said he has regained much of that weight, and is back up to a relatively normal 360 pounds.

"The good news is that Jabari has finally turned the corner and is doing very well," said Curtis Eng, the zoo's chief veterinarian.

Several months ago, the 16-year-old gorilla was put on posaconazole, a potent and expensive medication that he washes down with grape juice. He may end up taking it for the rest of his life, at a cost of roughly $17,000 a month.

In late 2011, Jabari developed symptoms consistent with a bad cold: persistent cough, fever, runny nose, loss of appetite and lethargy. When he didn't respond to antibiotics, extensive testing revealed he was suffering from valley fever, a fungal disease similar to pneumonia.

After consulting with veterinarians across the country and physicians who treat humans with the disease, zookeepers initially placed Jabari on a medication that needed to be administered intravenously after he was sedated.

"Jabari was immobilized 25 times over a period of about two months in 2012 to get him to start feeling better," Eng told the newspaper.

In humans and animals alike, valley fever is contracted by breathing fungal spores that are released into the air when soil is disturbed. The illness is prevalent in the desert areas of California and Arizona, but it's rarely contracted in the Los Angeles area.

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