"We are providing supportive care as needed so they can eat, rest and recover," said one Georgia Aquarium official

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Small Clawed otter
Small-clawed otter
| Credit: Getty Images

A number of Asian small-clawed otters at the Georgia Aquarium have tested positive for COVID-19.

"They began exhibiting mild respiratory symptoms such as sneezing, runny noses, mild lethargy, and some began coughing," the aquarium wrote on Sunday in a Facebook post announcing the news, without specifying how many otters had tested positive.

Fortunately, all of the animals "are doing well" and "expected to make a full recovery." Additionally, the aquarium does not except the geriatric animals to have "any long-term health issues." 

"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," Dr. Tonya Clauss, vice president of animal and environmental health at Georgia Aquarium, added in a press release. "We are providing supportive care as needed so they can eat, rest and recover."

Although the aquarium said they followed "all recommended health and safety protocols, it is suspected the otters may have acquired the infection from an asymptomatic staff member." 

All staff members who were determined to have been in direct contact with the otters have been tested.

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The Georgia Aquarium went on to note that "the risk of animal-to-human transmission is incredibly rare" and that the animals "do not have direct contact with guests."

For now, the otters are receiving "behind-the-scenes" care from a team of experts. "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 aquarium added. 

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more information is still needed to "understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19."

"We know that companion animals like cats and dogs, big cats in zoos or sanctuaries, gorillas in zoos, mink on farms, and a few other mammals can be infected with SARS-CoV-2, but we don't yet know all of the animals that can get infected," a post on their website reads. 

A number of zoos across the country have reported positive COVID-19 cases among its animals over the past year. 

Several Bronx Zoo tigers and lions tested positive in April 2020; all of the big cats have since recovered. Additionally, a gorilla troop at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is currently on the mend after testing positive for COVID-19 in January of this year. In February, two tigers at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo tested positive for the virus.

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