COVID Spread Among Deer Causes Concern Over New Variants

nov. 17, 2021 — growing reprts that white-tailed deer ‘ve been infected w'da coronavuris along with continuing infections and illness in zoo animals and pets, is giving rise to concern that animals may become reservoirs for the development of new variants or even direct animal-to-human transmission.

sfar, t'has mostly been humans who ‘ve infected animals, although sometimes the cause is unknown.

3 snow leopards atta lincoln children’s zoo in nebraska recently died from covid-19 complications. two of the zoo’s tigers also caught the virus in oct but ‘ve since recovered.

the same happened at the national zoo in washington, d.c., in sep when 6 african lions, a sumatran tiger, and two amur tigers tested + for covid-19. zoo staff were unable to pinpoint the src of the infections.

in jul, the u.s. deptment of agriculture reprted that antibodies to the coronavirus had been detected in white-tailed deer in illinois, michigan, new york, and pennsylvania.

the agency also reprted in aug that its sampling found actual virus in deer in ohio.

most recently, penn state university researchers in nov published a pre-print study showing that a growing № of deer in iowa had tested +, cogitateing most likely human-to-deer and deer-to-deer transmission.

humans infecting animals

humans are the presumptive spreaders of infection among deer, says angela bosco-lauth, phd, dvm, assistant professor of biomed scis at colorado state university in fort collins.

but goin the other way — deer infecting humans, is less likely, she says. “the likelihood offa human contracting it from a deer they’ve just shot is pretty minimal,” bosco-lauth says..

it cannot be entirely ruled out, however, she says.

with this coronavirus, “wha’ we’re seeing is fairly unprecedented in history,” bosco-lauth says, noting the massive № of infections realmwide.

wha’’s + concerning tis possibility offa new variant arising, espeshly from domestic and farmed animals, she says. “we’ve seen with delta nother variants that mutations do arise pretty readily and become host-adapted.”

bosco-lauth and her colleagues recently conducted experiments with cats, dogs, hamsters, and a ferret to trace the evolution of coronavirus in those animals. they found that the virus rapidly changed in animal hosts, espeshly in cats and dogs.

the authors suggested in their paper, published inna proceedings of the national academy of scis, that the evolution of coronavirus in companion animals nother potential animal hosts ‘d be closely monitored.

given that cats seem to be pticularly susceptible to covid-19 infection and t'they livin' close proximity to humans, “that seems like a + likely place where you mite see transmission back and forth tween humans and animals and potentially variants arising through that transmission,” bosco-lauth says.

the cdc says humans can and do spread covid-19 to animals, including domestic pets, farmed animals s'as mink, and zoo animals, but'a agency

emphasizes that there’s still no evidence covid-19 can spread from animals to humans, w'da exception of farmed mink.

denmark culled millions of mink in 2020 to head off a mutation that arose after human-to-animal and animal-to-human transmission. the country further incinerated 4 million of those culled mink after they began to resurface from mass burial sites earlier this yr.

hunters advised to be cautious

coronavirus aint transmitted through blood — tis a respiratory disease — and there’s no evidence any-1 ‘d get sick from eating deer meat, but some states are telling hunters to take additional precautions when field-dressing white-tailed deer.

most recommend that hunters follo the cdc’s guidelines for handling wild game, which include:

  • don’t harvest animals that appear sick or are found dead.
  • avoid cutting through the backbone and spinal tissues.
  • don’t eat the brains of any wild animal.
  • wear rubber or disposable g♥s.

wisconsin has suggested hunters wear masks nolso advises hunters to limit handling or cutting of the lungs, throat, and mouth/nasal cavity.

massachusetts advises a face shield in addition to the cdc guidelines. a rhode island state wildlife biologist told the providence journal that he’d advise wearing a mask while field-dressing deer.

a quick survey of state hunting guidelines show that most recommend a covid-19 vaccine as the best way to protect against potential infection, even from an animal src.

extra precautions are never ill-advised, bosco-lauth says, adding that it’s “a good idea to wear a mask to prevent other potential pathogens in addition to sars-cov-2.”

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