Officials at Zoo Atlanta reported Tuesday that at least 18 of the Zoo’s 20 gorillas have tested positive for COVID-19, an outbreak that began only days before the Zoo had hoped to get a veterinary vaccine for the primates.

Employees noted the gorillas were coughing, had runny noses, and showed changes in appetite, Zoo Atlanta then released the first positive tests among the gorillas on Friday, Sept. 10, WSBTV reported.

The Zoo says monoclonal antibodies are being used to treat gorillas that are at risk of developing complications.

Officials say there’s no indication the gorillas can transmit the virus to humans, and tourists are too far away to be infected.

“While humans are known to be able to transmit the virus to animals such as gorillas, and these cases have occurred at other Zoos, there is currently no data to suggest that Zoo animals can transmit the virus to humans,” Zoo officials said. “Regardless, Zoo Atlanta visitors do not pose a transmission threat to the gorillas or vice versa given the distance between the areas used by guests and the animals’ habitats.”

The four groups of gorillas at Zoo Atlanta live in close proximity to each other, making it impossible to isolate them individually. They will be given the Zoetis coronavirus vaccine, which was intended for veterinary use, when they recover, according to The Guardian.

Sam Rivera, Zoo Atlanta’s senior director of animal health, said he hopes all of the gorillas recover well, but he is concerned about how the infections developed given their strict protocols.

“The infections occurred in an area of the Zoo where COVID safety protocols are already at their most stringent,” Rivera said. “The use of PPE when working with great apes was already a standard practice at Zoo Atlanta due to their susceptibility to many of the same illnesses experienced by humans, including the common cold and influenza.”

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