Otters test positive for COVID-19, Georgia Aquarium says

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The Georgia Aquarium announced on Sunday that its Asian small-clawed otters tested positive for COVID-19.

While it was unclear how many of the animals had tested positive, officials said in a news release that the otters are already showing signs of improvement and are expected to make “a full recovery.”

“Our Asian small-clawed otters are under very close monitoring by veterinarians and animal care team members,” Dr. Tonya Clauss, vice president of animal and environmental health at Georgia Aquarium, said in a news release. “They have displayed only mild symptoms and we expect them all to make a full recovery. We are providing supportive care as needed so they can eat, rest and recover.”

The animals were moved off exhibit and were being cared for “behind-the-scenes.” Zoo staff decided to test the animals based on clinical signs. At this time, “it is suspected the otters may have acquired the infection from an asymptomatic staff member.”

“The risk of animal-to-human transmission is incredibly rare,” the news release said. “The Asian small-clawed otters at the Aquarium do not have direct contact with guests and have always been behind acrylic barriers, separating them from guests. The otters will continue to be monitored and once they are no longer positive for COVID-19, it will then be determined when they will go back on exhibit.”

The news release noted the impact of the virus in the species is unknown at this time. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) states that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 “is not easily spread from humans to animals.”

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