More than a dozen gorillas have tested positive for Covid-19 at the Atlanta Zoo, likely after contracting the virus from a caretaker, zoo officials said.
Staff were alerted when several of the zoo’s 20 western lowland gorillas started showing symptoms, including a runny nose, mild cough and loss of appetite.
Stool samples and swabs sent to the University of Georgia’s veterinary diagnostic laboratory showed that 13 of the great apes tested positive for the coronavirus, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
In a statement posted to the zoo’s website, officials said they believed a vaccinated member of its animal care team, who was wearing personal protective equipment and was asymptomatic when she arrived at work, has probably transmitted the virus.
“The teams are monitoring the affected gorillas very closely and hope they make a full recovery,” said Sam Rivera, senior director of animal health at the Atlanta Zoo.
Further tests sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, for confirmation, are pending, the statement added. Some of the gorillas are given monoclonal antibodies, and staff are paying special attention to Ozzie, a 60-year-old man considered most at risk for complications from Covid.
The gorillas at the Atlanta Zoo live close to each other in four groups, making it impossible to isolate them individually. As they recover, they will receive the Zoetis coronavirus vaccine developed for veterinary use, the statement said.
Other animals at the Atlanta Zoo that will receive the vaccine in the coming days will include Borneo and Sumatran orangutans, Sumatran tigers, African lions and a clouded leopard.
In February, the San Diego Zoo announced that its eight lowland gorillas who had contracted Covid-19 weeks earlier, including Winston, a 49-year-old man, had made a full recovery.
The California Zoo also reported in July that its two endangered snow leopards had coronavirus, but were responding well to treatment.