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Monday, September 27, 2021

Now, COVID-19 spreads to gorillas at US zoo as 13 apes test positive

At least 13 western lowland gorillas seem to have tested positive for COVID-19, said Atlanta’s zoo in the US. It includes 60-year-old Ozzie, the oldest male gorilla in captivity.  

The staff noticed the gorillas had been coughing, had runny noses and showed changes in appetite, said Zoo Atlanta on Friday.  

The University of Georgia’s veterinary lab returned positive tests for the respiratory illness. It’s waiting on confirmation from the National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames, Iowa, said Zoo Atlanta.  

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The zoo is making concerted efforts to test all 20 of its gorillas, who live in four troops. It is treating the gorillas at risk of developing complications from SARS-CoV-2 with monoclonal antibodies.   

The officials of the zoo say they believe an asymptomatic employee, who cares for the gorillas, may have passed on the virus.   

The staff member had been fully vaccinated and used to wearing protective equipment, such as a mask and gloves.

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According to the zoo, there is no evidence that the gorillas can pass the virus back to humans and says visitors are too far away to be infected by gorillas.  

In a statement, Dr Sam Rivera, the zoo’s senior director of animal health, said “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.”  

(With inputs from agencies) 

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