Now Otters Test Positive for COVID-19 in Georgia

It's believed the otters caught the virus from an asymptomatic staff member.
Fabienne Lang
The photo credit line may appear like thisAnneliese Gruenwald-Maerki

From gorillas to minks, and now to otters, it seems that SARS-CoV-2 is making the rounds of certain animal groups. A bevy of Asian small-clawed otters at the Georgia Aquarium tested positive for the coronavirus, as the aquarium reported on Sunday, April 18. 

It's believed the otters caught the virus from an asymptomatic staff member, and luckily, the elderly otters are making a smooth recovery thanks to the Aquarium's expert animal health care team.

"Our Asian small-clawed otters are under very close monitoring by veterinarians and animal care team members. They have displayed only mild symptoms and we expect them all to make a full recovery," said Dr. Tonya Clauss, vice president of animal and environmental health at Georgia Aquarium.

The otters had shown the typical signs of COVID-19: lethargy, sneezing, coughing, and runny noses. And after being tested, it was confirmed they had COVID-19.

This is the first reported case of otters contracting the virus, and little is known about how they respond to and recover from it. 

There is little chance people visiting the Aquarium will have caught the virus from these otters, as they do not have direct contact with guests, and have always been kept behind acrylic barriers, away from guests. On top of that, animal-to-human transmission is incredibly rare, although not unheard of. 

Animals and COVID-19

This isn't the first time animals have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. In an effort to minimize any risks of human-to-animal-to-human transmissions, a COVID-19 vaccine specifically made for animals has been developed and registered in Russia.

In the San Diego Zoo, great apes already received another COVID-19 vaccine for animals, though that one was not officially registered at the time. The apes made a smooth recovery. 

As for the otters at the Georgia Aquarium, no news of them receiving any COVID-19 vaccine has been shared, but the team doesn't anticipate they'll endure any long-term effects, and they should make a clean recovery.


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