ATLANTA, GA (AP) — Atlanta Zoo says at least 13 western Lowland Gorillas have tested positive to COVID-19. One of them is Ozzie, who is 60 years old and the oldest male gorilla kept in captivity.
Zoo Atlanta reported that Zoo Atlanta employees noticed that the gorillas were coughing up, having runny noses, and showing changes in appetite. A University of Georgia veterinary lab returned positive results for respiratory illness. Zoo Atlanta states it’s still waiting on confirmation from the National Veterinary Services Lab, Ames, Iowa.
According to the zoo, it is treating gorillas that are at high risk for complications from SARS/CoV-2 using monoclonal antibodies. All 20 gorillas in its four troop are being tested by the zoo.
Officials from the Zoo believe that the virus was passed to an employee who cares about the gorillas. The employee was fully vaccinated. He was also wearing protective equipment, such as gloves and mask.
The zoo claims there is no evidence that gorillas can pass on the virus to humans. It also says that it is unlikely that anyone visiting the park will be infected.
“We are very worried that these infections occurred, particularly given that our safety procedures when working with great-apes and other vulnerable animal species are, et throughout the pandemic have, been, extremely rigorous,” Dr. Sam Rivera said in a statement.
Rivera told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Atlanta’s Gorillas may be the second great apes to have been infected with COVID-19. Eight gorillas at San Diego Zoo Safari Park were also treated. All silverbacks in San Diego were given an experimental anti-viral regimen and they all recovered.
Rivera explained that the gorillas share a home and it’s difficult to isolate infected animals. Rivera said that the Atlanta zoo would vaccinate gorillas using a veterinary vaccination. Zoo Atlanta will vaccinate its Sumatran and Bornean orangutans, Sumatran tigers and African lions, as well as its clouded leopard.
Rivera said Ozzie has mild symptoms. He said, “We don’t feel like we’re out of the woods.” “We’re just taking it day-by-day.”
According to the zoo, it has increased its anti-infection efforts by using more protective masks and suits, intensive cleaning, and increased ventilation.