SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Gorillas at Zoo Atlanta have tested positive for COVID-19, officials announced Friday.
This comes as the zoo prepares to administer the Zoetis vaccine to some animals. The shot is authorized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to prevent COVID in animals.
Team members overseeing the gorillas recently observed several with signs of the virus, including coughing, nasal discharge and minor changes in appetite.
Zoo officials say nasal and oral swabs, along with fecal samples, were sent off for testing. Zoo Atlanta received presumptive positive test results and is waiting on confirmatory tests from a veterinary lab in Iowa.
Meanwhile, the gorillas at risk of developing complications from coronavirus are being treated with monoclonal antibodies. Team members are also working to sample all 20 gorillas, officials say.
“The teams are very closely monitoring the affected gorillas and are hopeful they will make a complete recovery. They are receiving the best possible care, and we are prepared to provide additional supportive care should it become necessary,” said Senior Director of Animal Health Dr. Sam Rivera.
According to Zoo Atlanta, the infections are believed to have stemmed from a member of the Gorilla Care Team. Officials added the team member was vaccinated, asymptomatic and wearing Personal Protective Equipment at work.
“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,” Rivera said.
Zoo officials say humans are known to be able to transmit the virus to some animals — and cases have occurred at other zoos. But they say there is “no data to suggest that zoo animals can transmit the virus to humans.”
Still, Zoo Atlanta is beefing up some preventative measures, including the use of N95 masks and increased ventilation in the gorilla building.
Officials say now that they’ve received the Zoetis vaccine, they’ll be vaccinating orangutans, tigers, lions and leopards.
Once the gorillas recover from COVID, they’ll be getting the shot as well.