Ron Harris, Associated Press
ATLANTA – Officials said on Tuesday that at least 18 of the 20 gorillas at the Atlanta Zoo now test positive for COVID-19, and the outbreak began a few days before the zoo hoped to obtain veterinary vaccines for primates.
On Friday, after employees noticed changes in the western lowland gorilla cough, runny nose and appetite, Zoo Atlanta announced the first positive test for the western lowland gorilla. A veterinary laboratory at the University of Georgia tested positive for respiratory diseases.
Atlanta Zoo said that the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, confirmed that so far, at least four samples from gorillas have tested positive for the delta variant of the virus.
The zoo said it is using monoclonal antibodies to treat gorillas who are at risk of contracting viral complications.
Officials said that there is no evidence that gorillas can transmit the virus back to humans, and that tourists are too far away from the gorillas to avoid infection.
Because the gorillas live closely together in four teams, zoo officials say it is impossible to isolate the infected animals.
Zoo officials said they believed an asymptomatic employee caring for the gorillas had contracted the virus. The employee has been fully vaccinated and is wearing protective equipment such as masks and gloves.
“According to our guidelines for animal caregivers, if they have the slightest cold symptoms, they should stay at home,” said Dr. Sam Rivera, senior director of animal health at the zoo. “It happened that a member of the animal care team showed signs that she suspected might be consistent with COVID on the next day, and was tested and tested positive.”
Sam Rivera, senior director of animal health at Zoo Atlanta, said the zoo will vaccinate gorillas with a veterinary vaccine, which is on the waiting list before the gorilla tests positive.
In January, eight gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park received treatment for the virus. A San Diego silverback received experimental antibody treatment and all recovered.
Join our Facebook group for the latest information on Coronavirus in Colorado.