Almost all gorillas at Zoo Atlanta have contracted COVID

At least 18 of the 20 gorillas at the Atlanta Zoo have tested positive for COVID-19, an outbreak that began just days before the zoo expected to obtain a veterinary vaccine for the primates, authorities said Tuesday.

The Atlanta Zoo had announced first positive tests among western lowland gorillas on Friday after employees noticed that the gorillas had coughed, had runny noses and showed changes in appetite. A University of Georgia veterinary laboratory tested positive for the respiratory disease.

Zoo Atlanta says the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, confirm that at least four of the gorilla samples so far have tested positive for the delta variant of the virus.

The zoo says it is using monoclonal antibodies to treat gorillas at risk of developing complications from the virus.

Authorities say there is no evidence that gorillas can transmit the virus to humans and visitors are too far away to be infected by gorillas.

Because the gorillas live together in four troops, zoo officials say it’s impossible to keep infected animals isolated.

Zoo officials say they believe an asymptomatic employee who cares for gorillas transmitted the virus. The employee had been fully vaccinated and was wearing protective equipment, such as a mask and gloves.

“According to our guidelines for animal care staff, if they have the slightest symptoms of a cold they should stay home,” said Dr. Sam Rivera, the zoo’s senior director of animal health. “It so happens that the member of the animal care team, the next day, developed signs that he suspected could be compatible with COVID and he was tested and it came back positive.”

Zoo Atlanta Senior Director of Animal Health Sam Rivera said the zoo will vaccinate gorillas with a veterinary vaccine that was on the waiting list before the gorillas tested positive.

Eight gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park were treated for the virus in January. One silverback from San Diego was given an experimental antibody regimen and all recovered.

Leave a Comment