At least 13 gorillas test positive for COVID-19 at Atlanta zoo after ‘becoming infected by vaccinated employee’ – with fears mounting for 60-year-old Ozzie who has a cough and runny nose
- Employees at Zoo Atlanta noticed that the gorillas were coughing and experiencing runny noses
- At least 13 have now tested positive to COVID-19; seven other gorillas at the park are now also being tested
- It’s believed an asymptomatic zoo employee transmitted the virus to the primates
- The zoo will vaccinate the gorillas with a veterinary vaccine
- It is the second known case of gorillas contracting COVID in the US; eight gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park tested positive back in January
Zoo Atlanta says at least 13 western lowland gorillas have tested positive for COVID-19, including their oldest male gorilla in captivity – a 60-year-old named Ozzie.
The zoo announced the disturbing news on Friday, saying employees noticed that 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. Zoo Atlanta is now waiting on confirmation from the National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames, Iowa.
Zoo officials say they believe a vaccinated employees who cares for the gorillas passed on the virus while asymptomatic. The employee was wearing protective equipment such as a mask and gloves.
The zoo says there is is no evidence that the gorillas can pass the virus back to humans and says visitors are too far away to be infected by gorillas.
Zoo Atlanta says at least 13 western lowland gorillas have tested positive for COVID-19, including their oldest male gorilla in captivity – a 60-year-old named Ozzie
Experts are now testing all 20 of Zoo Atlanta’s gorillas, who live in four troops
Zookeepers are now treating the gorillas at risk of developing complications with monoclonal antibodies. They are testing all 20 of Zoo Atlanta’s gorillas, who live in four troops.
‘We are very concerned that these infections occurred, especially given that our safety protocols when working with great apes and other susceptible animal species are, and throughout the pandemic have been, extremely rigorous,’ Dr. Sam Rivera, the zoo’s senior director of animal health, said in a statement.
Rivera told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Atlanta’s gorillas appear to be the second group of great apes infected by COVID-19, after eight gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park were treated for the virus in January.
Because the gorillas live close together, Rivera said it’s impossible to keep infected animals isolated. He said the Atlanta zoo will vaccinate the gorillas with a veterinary vaccine. Zoo Atlanta is vaccinating its Bornean and Sumatran orangutans, its Sumatran tigers, its African lions and its clouded leopard.
Rivera said Ozzie is showing mild symptoms. ‘We don’t feel that we’re out of the woods,’ he added. ‘We’re taking it on a day by day basis.’
The zoo says it has stepped up anti-infection efforts including more protective masks, suits, more intensive cleaning and increased ventilation.
Because the gorillas live close together, it’s impossible to keep infected animals isolated