White-tailed deer can contract COVID-19

Aug. 12, 2021

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recently completed a study that analyzed serum samples from free-ranging white-tailed deer for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies.

Results of the study indicate that certain white-tailed deer populations in Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania were exposed to SARS-CoV-2.

“Studying the susceptibility of certain mammals, such as deer, to the SARS-CoV-2 virus helps to identify species that may serve as reservoirs or hosts for the virus. It also helps us understand the origin of the virus and predict its impacts on wildlife and the risks of cross-species transmission,” the department said.

APHIS collected a total of 481 samples between January 2020 and March 2021 from Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania. APHIS detected SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in 33% of those samples.

“Although the results indicate that certain white-tailed deer populations in these states were exposed to SARS-CoV-2, they should not be extrapolated to represent the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the deer populations as a whole,” the inspection service said. “There is no evidence that animals, including deer, are playing a significant role in the spread of SARS-CoV-2 to people. Based on the available information, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is low.”

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