ATLANTA — They had many of the same symptoms humans have when they are diagnosed with COVID-19, and it turns out the critters at the Georgia Aquarium have it.
The Asian small-clawed otters at Georgia Aquarium have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, the aquarium announced on Sunday.
The aquarium said that the otters began exhibiting "mild respiratory symptoms," including sneezing, runny noses, mild lethargy, and coughing.
It is suspected the otters may have acquired the infection from an asymptomatic staff member, they said. Out of an abundance of caution, all staff who have been in contact with the otters have been tested.
The otters at the Aquarium do not have direct contact with guests, they said, and have always been behind acrylic barriers.
They said they are already improving and "expected to make a full recovery." They added that the otters are "off exhibit" and are being cared for behind-the-scenes by the Aquarium’s expert animal health and animal care teams.
“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 decision to test the Asian small-clawed otters for COVID-19 was made based on the clinical signs in the entire group. Georgia Aquarium veterinarians consulted with the state veterinarians’ office and the department of health.