RESEARCHERS in Valencia have detected what is believed to be the first case of Covid-19 in a wild river otter which was discovered dead near a reservoir inland from the Costa Blanca.

A team of scientists concluded that the Eurasion otter (lutra lutra) likely caught the infection through contaminated sewage.

Tests were carried out on the animal after it was found dead near the Bellus reservoir outside the towns of Bellus and Beniganim. 

The remains of two other otters were found near different water sources elsewhere in the Valencia region but both tested negative for Covid.

The findings are published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science.with calls for a surveillance system to be set  up to monitor the species.

Otter
It was found dead near the Bellus reservoir. Photo: Pixabay

“The pandemic nature of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak increases the likelihood of infection from humans of susceptible animal species that, thus, could become secondary viral hosts and even disease reservoirs,” wrote the team.

Although it is well known that mink are highly susceptible to coronavirus leading to huge culls of animals at mink farms across Europe, it is the first time the virus has been detected in wild otters.

In May last year, the same team detected two positive cases of the virus in wild American mink found in two rivers in the province of Castellon.

These were the first cases of the virus in Europe in wild animals that had not been in direct contact with infected people. 

In an article published in the journal, Animals, the team raised the possibility that animals had caught the virus after coming into contact with wastewater containing human sewage.

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