What’s up with otters getting COVID-19?

Families/Kids Staying Safe

A: TL; DR. Otters at the Georgia Aquarium recently joined the growing list of animals that test positive for COVID-19. T

hey were showing mild symptoms but there is no expectation of long-term effects. While transmission from animals to humans is extremely rare, scientists recommend taking precautions to limit exposures in either direction.

What’s up with otters getting COVID-19?

In mid-April, the Georgia Aquarium announced that several of their geriatric Asian small-clawed otters tested positive for COVID-19, after showing mild symptoms including coughing, sneezing, and runny noses. Thankfully, these delightful mustelids are expected to fully recover with no long-term consequences. The aquarium otters likely contracted the virus from an asymptomatic staff member. The otters are behind acrylic barriers and have had no direct contact with aquarium guests.

What other animals can catch COVID-19?

Otters are among the growing list of animals known to have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, including cats, dogs, bank voles, ferrets, fruit bats, hamsters, mink, pigs, rabbits, racoon dogs, tree shrews, and white-tailed deer. Some of these species have been shown to infect other animals in the laboratory setting. Interestingly, lab mice, chickens, and ducks do not appear to be able to get infected or spread infection.

Can animals give me COVID-19?

Thankfully, animal-to-human transmission is currently considered rare. A recent study of seropositivity among household pets (in Utah and Wisconsin) suggested that human infection preceded the infection of the pet, rather than the other way around. Due to the concern of human-to-animal transmission, the CDC recommends that individuals with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 avoid contact with animals.

Articles on the otters (with pictures):

Georgia Aquarium Article

Smithsonian Magazine Article

Study on COVID-19 and pets

Prior Dear Pandemic Posts on Pets

Can animals get COVID and die?

Risk of COVID-19 to pets

CDC Guidelines on COVID-19 and animals

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