Covid-19 Positive Cases at the Zoo

Hannah Murphy, Staff Writer

Covid-19 Positive Cases at Zoo
Coughing, sneezing, runny-noses, and congestion are all symptoms of COVID-19 in humans, right? These happen to also be the same symptoms that prompted zoo workers at the Atlanta Zoo to test their gorillas for COVID-19. Workers sent for COVID tests for said gorillas, which the University of Georgia confirmed came back positive for 18 out of 20 gorillas. Not only did the tests come back positive, four of the tests came back positive for the newly rising delta variant of COVID.
Although the process of treating COVID-19 is still fairly new, it is even more complicated in figuring out the process for an animal rather than a human. As of right now, the zoo claims to be using monoclonal antibodies to reduce the complications from the respiratory illness. The zoo also claims that it is close to impossible to keep the animals distanced from each other, so they will continue to live in close habitats. 18 gorillas at Atlanta’s Zoo have contracted COVID
The Potential Spreader
It is hard to say, but officials are coming to the consensus that one of the gorilla’s care givers was the one who passed the virus to the animals, even though said caregiver was gloved and fully vaccinated when caring for the gorillas. Dr. Sam Rivera, a senior director of health at the zoo, claims: “According to our guidelines for animal care staff, if they have the slightest symptoms of a cold they are to stay home, 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.” The zoo also plans on vaccinating the gorillas with a veterinarian vaccine and has had this plan before the positive cases even came to be.
A spokesperson for the Atlanta Zoo, Rachel Davis, wrote in an email that “the assumption is that members of all four troops have been exposed, regardless of symptoms exhibited or not exhibited.” Claiming that they are assuming all of the gorillas have the visus due to the close contact they live in, therefore they are all being treated with the best possible care as if they all have the virus.
Vaccine’s Status
While the Atlanta Zoo has been on the waiting list for the vaccine, San Diego’s great apes have received an experimental vaccine created by the veterinary pharmaceutical company Zoetis. The San Diego zoo decided the vaccine was the best option after a whole gorilla troop came down with the virus. Although their apes are vaccinated, the San Diego Zoo’s 9-year old snow leopard tested positive for COVID-19 in July after not being vaccinated. The spread of the veterinary vaccine seems to be reaching as many areas as the human vaccine did and just as quickly. The Oakland zoo hopped on the same train and vaccinated their tigers, bears, mountain lions, and ferrets in hopes of stopping the spread and risk of the virus. The Atlanta Zoo says they got the go-ahead from Georgia’s state veterinarian to vaccinate their animal population. The zoo claims they plan on vaccinating the gorillas as soon as they recover. In the meantime, they are vaccinating their orangutans, tigers, lions, and leopards.
What Now?
With the growing spread of COVID-19 in mammals, the more questions begin to rise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rush to answer these unknown circumstances. As of right now, the CDC claim that zoos should continue the use of safety protocols and wearing of PPE (personal protective equipment) in attempt to stop the spread.