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18 Gorillas With Bad Coughs, Runny Noses Test Positive For COVID-19 At Atlanta Zoo

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Harry Wilmerding Contributor
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A group of 18 gorillas at an Atlanta zoo have tested positive for COVID-19 since the initial reports Friday, the Associated Press reported.

Zoo Atlanta first announced COVID-19 cases among its western lowland gorillas on Friday after staff saw coughing, runny noses and changes in appetite among the group of animals. The number of positive cases grew to 18 Tuesday, the AP reported.

“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,” Sam Rivera, senior director of Animal Health at Zoo Atlanta, said in the press release.

“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.

The National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, confirmed that at least 4 of the gorillas tested positive for the delta variant, according to the AP. The zoo is treating the gorillas with monoclonal antibodies to reduce the risk of developing complications from the virus.

There is currently no data that confirms that gorillas can transmit the virus to humans, officials said in the press release. (RELATED: Animal Shelter Seeing Increase In People Abandoning Pets As Pandemic Lockdowns And Restrictions End)

It is believed that an asymptomatic employee passed the virus to the group of gorillas, according to the press release. The zoo employee was fully vaccinated and was wearing their gloves and mask.

Zoo Atlanta plans to vaccinate the gorillas with the animal-specific Zoetis vaccine, according to the press release. The zoo will also immunize members of its orangutan, tiger, lion and leopard population.

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