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A new study from North Carolina State University detected evidence of otter diseases that may be spread by pets.

North American river otters, known for their playful swimming, are also an important species for helping scientists track the health of river systems.

The study detected parvovirus, a virus that can infect unvaccinated dogs and other mammals, in 19 percent of otters studied. They also detected a parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, in 24 percent of the otters, which can cause toxoplasmosis and spread to humans and other animals. Finally, the researchers also found a very low prevalence of Leptospira bacteria, which can be transmitted to people and is lethal in otters.

Researchers said these findings do not appear to be affecting the survival of the otter population; however, the findings are important for establishing a baseline that will allow wildlife officials to monitor otter health over time.

Read more about river otters and how human-animal diseases can spread.

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