The Covid-19 virus has been found in several gorillas at Zoo Atlanta in Georgia, according to the Zoo management, Njenje Media News reports.
The western lowland gorillas were tested after their keepers noticed them coughing and showing other symptoms, according to the report.
Initial testing revealed they were infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes Covid-19, and the zoo said in a statement Friday that it was awaiting confirmation from the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.
Monoclonal antibodies were used to treat gorillas who were at danger of developing problems, and the zoo’s entire population of 20 gorillas was tested.
“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,” said Sam Rivera, senior director of animal health at Zoo Atlanta.
“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.”
The zoo said it believed the gorillas were infected by an asymptomatic keeper, despite the employee being fully vaccinated and wearing personal protective equipment.
“While humans are known to be able to transmit the virus to animals such as gorillas, and these cases have occurred at other zoos, there is currently no data to suggest that zoo animals can transmit the virus to humans,” the zoo said.
In any case, it said visitors did not pose a threat due to the distance between them and the primates’ habitat.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that 13 of the zoo’s gorillas were infected, including 60-year-old Ozzie, the oldest male gorilla in captivity.
Zoo Atlanta said it has been given permission to use the Zoetis Covid vaccine, which was created for animals, and that the gorillas would be inoculated after they have recovered.
The zoo said it would also vaccinate its orangutans, Sumatran tigers, African lions and clouded leopard.
Domestic cats and dogs have also been infected with Covid-19.