Loading articles...

18 of 20 gorillas at Atlanta's zoo have contracted COVID-19

Last Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 11:54 pm EDT

Western lowland gorillas are seen in their habitat at Zoo Atlanta on Sept. 14, 2021, in Atlanta. Nearly all of the zoo's 20 gorillas are showing symptoms of having contracted the coronavirus from a zoo staff worker, according to zoo officials. The confirmed cases of those gorillas tested have come back positive for the COVID-19 Delta variant. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

“According to our guidelines for animal care staff, if they have the slightest symptoms of a cold they are to stay home,” said Dr. Sam Rivera, the zoo’s senior director of animal health. “It so happens that the animal care team member, the following day she developed signs that she suspected might be consistent with COVID and was tested and was positive.”

Senior Director of Animal Health at Zoo Atlanta Sam Rivera said the zoo will vaccinate the gorillas with a veterinary vaccine that it had been on the waiting list for prior to the gorillas’ positive tests.

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

Latest Traffic & Weather
680 NEWS TRAFFIC @680NEWStraffic 680 News Traffic Twitter verified icon
Updated Yesterday at 08:54 PM
#SnowTire season, too! It'll be here before you snow it. They should be installed before the temp drops to 7 degree…
Latest Traffic
680 NEWS WEATHER @680NEWSweather 
Updated Yesterday at 05:46 PM
This is how you make brilliant fall colours
Latest Weather