Georgia Aquarium’s otters test positive for virus that causes COVID-19

Asian small-clawed otters at the Georgia Aquarium have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19.The otters have been taken off exhibit and are being cared for.The aquarium said it believes they were infected by an asymptomatic employee.Asian small-clawed otters are the smallest of the 13 otter species, and live in groups of about a dozen.Georgia Aquarium staff say they expect the otters to make a full recovery

Its Asian small-clawed otters have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, the Georgia Aquarium announced.

The geriatric otters showed mild symptoms: sneezing, runny noses, lethargy and coughing, and have been taken off exhibit to be cared for.

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“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. “We are providing supportive care as needed so they can eat, rest and recover.”

The aquarium stated on its website the otters likely contracted the virus from an employee who was asymptomatic, and all staff who work with the critters are being tested for COVID-19.

The aquarium said the decision to test the otters was made based on the clinical signs in the group. Georgia Aquarium vets consulted with the state veterinarians’ office and the Department of Health.

Although little is known about the effect of COVID-19 on otter species, aquarium staff anticipate there will be no long-term health issues.

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Asian small-clawed otter is a social species, usually living in extended family groups numbering around a dozen.

They are the least aquatic of the 13 otter species, and forage for mollusks, fish, frogs, crabs and other crustaceans along the shoreline and shallows during daylight hours.

They are also the world’s smallest otter, ranging in size from 4.4 to 11 pounds, with a head and body length of 16-24 inches and a tail length of 10-12 inches.