Terrible news for anyone who loves otters, which is to say everyone: Apparently, they can get COVID. How do I know this? Because a romp of otters at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta has tested positive for the coronavirus, per Gizmodo. What’s more, the working theory is that an asymptomatic aquarium employee probably passed the virus to these slinky lads, who are reportedly “geriatric” and did not ask for any of this.
In a statement issued Sunday, the aquarium’s vice-president of animal and environmental health, Tonya Clauss, assured the general public that a team of veterinarians and animal-care experts were keeping close tabs on the situation. The affected Asian small-clawed otters have reportedly displayed “very mild symptoms,” thank goodness, and are receiving “supportive care as needed so they can eat, rest and recover.”
As Gizmodo points out, the leap is not necessarily surprising, since otters belong to the same family (Mustelidae) as mink, known carriers of the coronavirus. (Recall: Denmark’s culling controversy and resultant “zombie mink” fiasco.) Other animals, such as cats of all sizes and dogs, have also come down with COVID, and across the board, the risk of animals transmitting to humans has been labeled low. But — and here I am thinking mostly about the mink, for whom the coronavirus has proved deadly — what of the otters themselves? According to the aquarium, they have been sneezing (adorable) and coughing (aw) and extra sleepy (!!!) for what sounds like a few days now.
Despite conjuring a very cute mental image this prognosis is objectively distressing: We wish the elderly otters happiness, health, and comfort in their golden years. Mercifully, the aquarium states that they “are already improving and expected to make a full recovery,” which, they better!