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Coronavirus Illness 2019 (COVID-19)

L-R: Dr. Chelsea Anderson, Georgia Aquarium; Amanda Feldpausch, Georgia Division of Public Well being, Ria Ghai, One Well being Workplace, CDC

Like many different zoonotic infectious ailments, SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 — doesn’t respect species boundaries. It poses a danger to not solely individuals, however to animals as properly. The COVID-19 pandemic is the newest instance of a illness rising on account of shut contact between animals and other people. When SARS-CoV-2 broke out amongst Asian small-clawed otters at Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, it was clear {that a} One Well being investigation was wanted to find out how the otters turned contaminated and to stop the virus from spreading additional to individuals and different animals. A One Well being method acknowledges the shut connection between the well being of individuals, animals, and their shared surroundings and the function this connection performs within the emergence of recent ailments. To successfully handle ailments that threaten individuals and animals, like COVID-19, consultants throughout the spectrum of human, animal, and environmental well being all have to work along with the purpose of reaching the perfect well being outcomes for individuals and animals.

A part of Dr. Ghai’s function within the COVID-19 response has been supporting state, tribal, native, and territorial (STLT) and federal interagency companions by giving technical steerage and coordination of animal and human pattern testing, coordinating One Well being investigations of individuals and animals with SARS-CoV-2, and serving as a collaborator for genomic and diagnostic analyses of samples from contaminated animals and other people to see if they’re linked. Dr. Ghai has collaborated with companions on One Well being case investigations in 16 states since March 2020. Their work has helped us study and add to the information base for a way the virus impacts animals. The outcomes of those investigations have additionally helped to tell public well being and animal well being steerage for many who could are available contact with animals, together with public well being professionals, animal well being professionals (similar to veterinarians), pet house owners, wildlife consultants, pet retailer employees, and plenty of others. Her work has led to creating and implementing steerage for various animal care settings, together with veterinary clinics, zoos, wildlife rehabilitation facilities, and pet shops, which have totally different wants from what typical public well being steerage normally covers. So, when the state requested Dr. Ghai to assist with an investigation on the aquarium, she and CDC’s One Well being Workforce had been prepared to help in one more distinctive setting.

In mid-March of 2021, employees at Georgia Aquarium observed their seven Asian small-clawed otters had been torpid and never as hungry as regular. By April, the otters had been additionally exhibiting indicators of respiratory sickness. Aquarium veterinary employees first contacted the State Veterinarian’s workplace after which the Georgia Division of Public Well being to ask for permission to check the otters for SARS-CoV-2 an infection. Their request was authorized. To everybody’s shock, the outcomes had been constructive. CDC’s One Well being Workplace was introduced into the dialog to help the Georgia Division of Public Well being investigation into the animals’ infections.

Asian small-clawed otter

Asian small-clawed otters vary in measurement from 4.4 to 11 kilos, with a physique size of solely 16-24 inches.

“The Georgia Aquarium workforce is so appreciative of the help now we have been given throughout this investigation by each native, state, and federal officers,” stated Dr. Tonya Clauss, vp of animal and environmental well being at Georgia Aquarium. “Fortunately, our Asian small-clawed otters had gentle sickness and have absolutely recovered, however the multi-organizational ties developed within the course of are persistent. Experiencing this One Well being collaborative method first-hand has been very impactful.”

Dr. Ghai’s function within the One Well being investigation was to assist coordinate the genomic and diagnostic evaluation of samples from the otters to additional help the epidemiologic investigation in individuals and animals with the Georgia Division of Public Well being and Georgia Aquarium.

The investigation into the Asian small-clawed otters is particularly necessary as a result of it’ll assist us proceed to study extra about SARS-CoV-2 in extremely prone animal species. Otters are intently associated to mink, that are extremely prone to SARS-CoV-2 an infection and have been contaminated in giant numbers on mink farms around the globe through the pandemic. Analyzing infections in otters may add to our understanding of why mustelids (animals like otters, mink, ferrets, and badgers) are so prone to SARS-CoV-2, whether or not they are often reinfected, and whether or not mutations and potential spillover into different animals or persons are attainable.

Asian-small clawed otter at the Georgia Aquarium

Georgia Aquarium is house to 7 Asian-small clawed otters, 5 feminine and two male.

“This investigation was an ideal instance of a powerful One Well being collaboration to guard each human and animal well being,” stated Dr. Ghai. “It concerned public well being and animal well being companions from the native degree (Georgia Aquarium and College of Georgia), state degree (Georgia Division of Public Well being and their laboratories), and federal degree (CDC and USDA-APHIS), all working collectively to guard the well being of the otters and different aquarium animals, in addition to the well being of employees, volunteers, and aquarium guests.”

Nobody sector alone can handle points that have an effect on individuals, animals, and the surroundings. By selling collaboration, communication, and coordination utilizing a One Well being method throughout all areas, ailments that cross species boundaries like COVID-19 may be extra successfully and shortly addressed, leading to higher well being outcomes for all.


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