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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

14 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

Updated 17 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Key FDA committee takes on the big booster question — Los Angeles County to require vaccination proof at indoor bars — France suspends 3,000 unvaccinated health workers without pay.
  2. Health: Worsening crisis at Rikers Island jail spurs call for action — 1 in 500 Americans has died — Cases are falling, but deaths are rising.
  3. Politics: White House invites call with Nicki Minaj to discuss vaccine — Gottlieb says CDC hampered U.S. response — 26 states have limited state or local officials' public health powers.
  4. Education: Denver looks to students to close Latino vaccination gap — Federal judge temporarily blocks Iowa's ban on mask mandates in schools — Massachusetts activates National Guard to help with school transportation.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Tina Reed, author of Vitals
22 hours ago - Health

Key FDA committee takes on the big booster question

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A key FDA advisory committee is meeting today to discuss Pfizer's proposal for a COVID vaccine booster — but it will set the stage for the entire booster debate.

The big question: Not only whether experts believe there’s enough evidence to support boosters, but also whether they believe additional shots should be made available for everyone or limited to older Americans and the immunocompromised.