ATLANTA, G.A. (WSPA) – Zoo Atlanta has received presumptive positive test results indicating that members of its western lowland gorilla troops are positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Recently, the Gorilla Care Team observed coughing, nasal discharge and minor changes to appetite in several gorillas.
According to Zoo Atlanta, when seeing these symptoms, the Animal Care and Veterinary Teams immediately tested for SARS-CoV-2 using fecal, nasal and oral samples and sending them to the Athens Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the University of Georgia.
The test came back presumptively positive, however, Zoo Atlanta is waiting to receive results from samples they sent to National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa to confirm the diagnosis.
While they wait for the confirmation results, the veterinary team is consulting with other veterinarians and human doctors to treat the gorillas at risk of developing complications from SARS-CoV-2 with monoclonal antibodies.
Zoo Atlanta is also testing the entire gorilla population at the zoo regardless of the presence of symptoms.
According to Zoo Atlanta, while they do not know with certainty how the gorillas acquired the virus, the Animal Care and Veterinary Teams believe the infections originated with a COVID-positive care team member.
The team member is fully vaccinated, was wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and was asymptomatic on the day of reporting to work.
The zoo does not know if the animals can transmit the virus to humans the way humans can transmit the virus to animals. Nevertheless, the enclosures are at a distance that does not pose a threat of transmission.
Zoo Atlanta is authorized to use the Zoetis vaccine, a vaccine made specifically for animals that have been used for SARS-COV-2 susceptible species in other zoological organizations in North America.
Zoo Atlanta will vaccinate its Bornean and Sumatran orangutans, Sumatran tigers, African lions, and clouded leopard. As the gorillas recover, they will also receive the vaccine.