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A Western Lowland Gorilla, an endangered animal species, sits in an exhibit at the San Francisco Zoo in 2007. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Thirteen western lowland gorillas at Zoo Atlanta are receiving treatment for COVID-19 after initial tests came back positive, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported.

Why it matters: Zoo Atlanta confirmed in a statement on Friday that "a number" of its 20 gorillas had tested presumptively positive, and that the zoo believes they were infected by a fully vaccinated team member.

  • The team member was wearing PPE and was asymptomatic that day, the statement added.

State of play: The gorillas were tested for the virus after they exhibited classic symptoms, including coughing, runny noses, and minor changes in appetite, the statement said.

  • Oral and fecal samples were sent to the University of Georgia's Athens Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, which came back with 13 presumptive positive results.
  • The zoo is now awaiting confirmation from the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, which also received samples.
  • Gorillas that are at risk of developing complications are being treated with monoclonal antibodies, the statement added.
  • All 20 of the gorillas will be tested regularly regardless of symptoms, the zoo added.

Once they recover, the gorillas — as well as the zoo's Bornean and Sumatran orangutans, Sumatran tigers, African lions, and clouded leopard — will receive the Zoetis coronavirus vaccine developed for animals.

What they're saying: “The teams are very closely monitoring the affected gorillas and are hopeful they will make a complete recovery,” Sam Rivera, senior director of animal health at the zoo, said in the statement.

  • “They are receiving the best possible care, and we are prepared to provide additional supportive care should it become necessary," Rivera said.

The big picture: Other zoos around the country have also begun to vaccinate some of their charges.

  • On Aug. 30, the Detroit Zoo announced it had begun vaccinations, starting with its Gorillas, chimpanzees, tigers and lions.
  • The Oakland Zoo began vaccinating its animals in July.
  • In February, great apes at the San Diego Zoo became the first animals in the country to be inoculated against the virus, per National Geographic.
  • Zoetis plans to send 11,000 doses of the animal vaccine to more than 80 institutions around the country for free, according to National Geographic.

Go deeper

20 hours ago - Science

Moderna suggests booster shots, citing clinical data

A box of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Indonesia. Photo: Algi Febri Sugita/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Moderna vaccine's efficacy declines a year after it's administered, compared to protection seen in recently inoculated individuals, the vaccine maker announced Wednesday.

Driving the news: Moderna made its case for supporting booster shots, citing clinical trial data that demonstrate breakthrough infections are less common among participants approximately eight months after receiving the first dose compared to approximately 13 months.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
20 hours ago - Health

CRISPR companies aim to bring gene editing to the market — and beyond

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The gene-editing tool CRISPR is moving toward the market, promising better tests, disease cures — and maybe even a woolly mammoth.

The big picture: CRISPR is already a historic scientific achievement, but we're just now entering the moment when it will begin to impact patients and possibly the planet.

22 hours ago - Health

1 in 500 Americans has died of COVID-19

Expand chart
Data: CDC and U.S. Census Bureau; Table: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The U.S. has reached a grim pandemic milestone: More than 1 in 500 Americans has died of COVID-19, according to the latest available data.

Why it matters: The rising death toll highlights the continued effects of the Delta variant and the ongoing struggle to get Americans vaccinated.

By the numbers: The total number of COVID-19 deaths recorded in the United States is 665,496 as of 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday, according to reporting by Johns Hopkins University.

  • 30.1% of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. involved individuals ages 85 and older as of Wednesday, despite only making up 2% of cases and an equal portion of the population.