Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team
Date: September 12, 2021 2:20 am
Photo Credit: Zoo Atlanta
A number of western lowland gorillas at Zoo Atlanta have returned a presumptive positive result indicating that they are positive for SARS-CoV-2 the virus which causes COVID-19.
In recent times their care team members have observed coughing, nasal discharge and changes to the appetite of the gorilla population. Following this the team immediately took fecal samples and nasal or oral swabs on the gorillas which were sent for testing.
These were presumptive tests and the results of a confirmatory test from the National Veterinary Services Laboratory are currently being awaited.
All 20 of the gorillas housed at Zoo Atlanta will undergo testing regardless of whether they are showing symptoms.
It is believed that the infections stem from a positive team member. The team member has now tested positive but was fully vaccinated, wearing PPE and was asymptomatic on the last day they worked.
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Humans are known to be able to transmit the disease to apes but as such there is no records of transmission back to humans. Due to the distance between guests and the gorillas there is seen to be no risk.
“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 Sam Rivera, DVM, Senior Director of Animal Health. “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.”
While these cases are unfortunate Zoo Atlanta has assured that the COVID safety protocols are at their strongest in this part of the zoo. The use of PPE was already standard due to the transmission risk of a range of diseases. Masks and gloves are worn inside gorilla houses and outdoor habitats.
Zoo Atlanta have recently received a delivery of a Covid-19 vaccination manufactured by Zoetis specifically for use with animals. First for vaccination will be the Bornean and Sumatran orangutans, tigers, African lions and clouded leopards. As they recover the gorillas will also be vaccinated.