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18 gorillas at Atlanta's zoo have contracted COVID

The zoo says it is using monoclonal antibodies to treat the gorillas at risk of developing complications from the virus.

ATLANTA — Officials on Tuesday said at least 18 of the 20 gorillas at Atlanta’s zoo have now tested positive for COVID-19.

Zoo Atlanta had announced the first positive tests among the gorillas on Friday after employees noticed the gorillas had been coughing, had runny noses, and showed changes in appetite.

The zoo says it is using monoclonal antibodies to treat the gorillas at risk of developing complications from the virus. Officials say there’s no evidence that the gorillas can pass the virus back to humans and visitors are too far away to be infected by gorillas.

The outbreak occurred just days before the zoo had hoped to obtain a veterinary vaccine for the primates.

The zoo also said they plan to vaccinate its Bornean and Sumatran orangutans, Sumatran tigers, African lions, and clouded leopard. As the gorillas recover, they will also receive the vaccine. Zoo Atlanta’s use of the Zoetis vaccine has been authorized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Georgia’s State Veterinarian.

"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.”

Last year, the otters at Georgia Aquarium tested positive for the virus.