ATLANTA, Ga. — The Georgia Aquarium says its Asian small-clawed otters have tested positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The aquarium said Sunday that the otters began exhibiting mild respiratory symptoms, including sneezing, runny noses, mild lethargy, and coughing.
Despite being geriatric, the facility says the animals are already improving and are expected to make a full recovery as they’re cared for behind the scenes by experts.
Since the otters don’t have direct contact with guests, the aquarium suspects that an asymptomatic staff member spread the virus to them, even though safety protocols are in place.
The facility says the risk of animal-to-human transmission is incredibly rare, but out of an abundance of caution, all staff that was in contact with the animals has been tested.
Though the impact of COVID-19 in otters is unknown, the aquarium anticipates there won’t be any long-term health issues from the virus.
The otters will continue to be monitored and once they are no longer positive for the virus, officials will determine when they’ll go back on exhibit.
“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.”