Several gorillas at the Atlanta city zoo in Georgia (southern United States) have tested positive for the coronavirus, Zoo Atlanta announced. The animals, western lowland gorillas, had been tested after caregivers saw them cough and show other symptoms.
Initial tests have shown that they were positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes Covid-19 and results of confirmatory tests are awaited from the services of the Ames national veterinary laboratory in Iowa, specified the zoo Friday in a statement.
Some gorillas at risk of complications have been treated with monoclonal antibodies and the 20 gorillas in the zoo have all been tested. “The teams are monitoring the affected gorillas very closely and hope they make a full recovery,” said Sam Rivera, director of animal health for Zoo Atlanta. “They are receiving the best possible care.”
“We are very concerned about these contaminations, in particular because our safety protocols for working with great apes and other vulnerable animal species are, and have been throughout the pandemic, extremely rigorous,” he said. he adds. The zoo believes the gorillas were infected by an asymptomatic caregiver, even though he had been fully vaccinated and was wearing protective gear.
No worries for the man
Visitors pose no danger due to the distance between them and the primate habitat, the zoo emphasizes. “It is known that humans can transmit the virus to animals like gorillas, and these cases have occurred in other zoos, but there is currently no data to suggest that zoo animals can transmit the virus to humans,” insists the establishment.
According to the Atlanta daily, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 13 of the zoo’s gorillas were infected including Ozzie, who is 60 years old the oldest male gorilla known to the zoo. Ozzie has moderate symptoms, Sam Rivera told Daily. “We don’t feel out of the woods,” he added, “we take it from day to day”.
DNA relatives, common diseases
Humans and other primates have a very similar genome, with gorillas having about 98% of their DNA in common. In Africa, chimpanzees and gorillas have thus been decimated by the Ebola virus. Zoo Atlanta said it has received authorization to use the anti-Covid vaccine for animals developed by the specialized firm Zoetis.
It will be administered to the gorillas as soon as they recover and the zoo also intends to vaccinate its orangutans, Sumatran tigers, African lions and clouded leopards. Covid-19 is also known to have struck domestic cats and dogs.