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World's Oldest Male Gorilla Has COVID

A dozen others in addition to Ozzie have also tested positive at Zoo Atlanta
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 11, 2021 6:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – The coronavirus has overtaken more than a dozen gorillas at Zoo Atlanta, officials say, including the oldest male gorilla in the world. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Ozzie—a 60-year-old, 350-pound silverback who's sired 12 gorillas at the zoo and is said to be a "terrific father"—and 12 other western lowland gorillas have shown "presumptive positive" test results for COVID, with confirmation expected soon from the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Iowa.

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All 20 of the zoo's gorillas were tested after the team that cares for them noticed some had runny noses and lack of appetite and were coughing. The zoo believes the gorillas caught the virus from a vaccinated, asymptomatic staffer who later tested positive for COVID. While working, she was said to have worn the PPE that Zoo Atlanta requires, including a mask and face shield, as well as gloves. A zoo spokesperson says there's no requirement that employees get vaxxed, though many have been.

The zoo recently received shipments of the veterinary Zoetis coronavirus vaccine and has vaccinated some of its other animals, including its African lions, Sumatran tigers, and orangutans; the gorillas are next to receive the vaccine, as they recover. Some of the older gorillas who are at risk of complications will also receive monoclonal antibody treatments. "The teams are very closely monitoring the affected gorillas and are hopeful they will make a complete recovery," Sam Rivera, the zoo's senior director of animal health, tells FOX 5.

The gorillas aren't thought to be a risk to zoo visitors, as the CDC says the risk of animals spreading COVID to humans is "low." Eight gorillas at the San Diego Zoo experienced a similar coronavirus outbreak in January. As for Ozzie himself, he's showing just mild symptoms, but Rivera tells the AJC: "We don't feel that we're out of the woods. We're taking it on a day-by-day basis." (Read more gorilla stories.)

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