Gorillas At Atlanta’s Zoo Have Contracted COVID, Probably From A Zoo Worker

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Western lowland gorillas are seen in their habitat at Zoo Atlanta on Tuesday. Nearly all of the zoo’s 20 gorillas have symptoms of having contracted the coronavirus from a zoo staff worker, according to zoo officials.

Ron Harris/AP

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Because the gorillas live close together in four troops, zoo officials say it’s impossible to keep infected animals isolated.

Zoo officials say they believe an asymptomatic employee who cares for the gorillas passed on the virus. The employee had been fully vaccinated and was wearing protective equipment such as a mask and gloves.

«According to our guidelines for animal care staff, if they have the slightest symptoms of a cold they are to stay home,» said Dr. Sam Rivera, the zoo’s senior director of animal health. «It so happens that the animal care team member, the following day she developed signs that she suspected might be consistent with COVID and was tested and was positive.»

Senior Director of Animal Health at Zoo Atlanta Sam Rivera said the zoo will vaccinate the gorillas with a veterinary vaccine that it had been on the waiting list for prior to the gorillas’ positive tests.

Eight gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park were treated for the virus in January. One San Diego silverback received an experimental antibody regimen, and all recovered.


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