Are marine mammals at risk from COVID-19?

Harbor seals appear to be genetically susceptible to the virus that causes COVID-19. Credit: Roy Lowe/USFWS

Some mammals, including cats, dogs and minks, have contracted COVID-19. That has led researchers to wonder if marine mammals could also be susceptible. Researchers say some marine mammals, including beluga whales, harbor seals and sea otters. carry gene mutations that could make them particularly vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease. More than half of them are at risk of extinction. The research is in pre-publication.

The study found some marine mammals may be more susceptible than humans. While their contact with humans is rare, researchers focused on the threat from contaminated wastewater. Scientists say the likelihood of contracting the virus through wastewater seems low, but other diseases, including toxoplasmosis and H1N1, may have spread through to marine mammals through wastewater.

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