Atlanta Gorillas Contract COVID: NPR

Atlanta Gorillas Contract COVID: NPR

ATLANTA — At least 18 of the 20 gorillas at Atlanta’s zoo have now tested positive for COVID-19, an outbreak that began just days before the zoo had hoped to obtain a veterinary vaccine for the primates, officials said Tuesday. Ron Harris/AP Zoo Atlanta had announced the first positive tests among the western lowland gorillas on Friday after employees noticed the gorillas had been coughing, had runny noses and showed changes in appetite. A veterinary lab at the University of Georgia returned positive tests for the respiratory illness.

Ron Harris/AP toggle caption

Western lowland gorillas are seen in their habitat at Zoo Atlanta on Tuesday. Nearly all of the zoo’s 20 gorillas have symptoms of having contracted the coronavirus from a zoo staff worker, according to zoo officials. hide caption

Because the gorillas live close 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 the gorillas passed on the virus. The employee had been fully vaccinated and was wearing protective equipment such as a mask and gloves. Officials say there’s no evidence that the gorillas can pass the virus back to humans and visitors are too far away to be infected by gorillas.

The zoo says it is using monoclonal antibodies to treat the gorillas at risk of developing complications from the virus. Zoo Atlanta says the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, confirms that at least four of the samples from the gorillas so far have tested positive for the delta variant of the virus.

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