April 20, 2021 -- Asian small-clawed otters at the Georgia Aquarium have tested positive for coronavirus, but they are expected to recover while being isolated from the public, the aquarium said in a statement.
The otters were tested after showing respiratory symptoms such as sneezing, runny noses, and coughing, the aquarium in Atlanta said. It’s believed the otters got the virus from a staff member who wasn’t showing symptoms, so all staff members that came in contact with the animals have been tested.
“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, said in the statement.
“We are providing supportive care as needed so they can eat, rest and recover.”
The otters were displayed behind plastic shields and never had contact with the public. They will go back on exhibit when they test negative. The aquarium didn’t say how many of the animals were infected.
Asian small-clawed otters are the world’s smallest otter, ranging in size from 4.4 to 11 lbs. with a head and body length of 16 to 24 inches and a tail length of 10 to12 inches, the aquarium said. They’re found in the mangrove swamps and freshwater wetlands of southern India, China, and Southeast Asia.
The coronavirus has been found in household pets and other zoo animals, such as the gorillas at the San Diego Zoo. Animals typically become infected through contact with humans, but it’s extremely rare for animal-to-human transmission to occur, health experts say.