While the US Government works to curb the spread, wildlife officials work to determine how it is infecting wild white-tailed Deer.
Experts haven’t confirmed that these wild animals contract COVID. However, it is believed they are drinking contaminated waters. Research has shown the virus can persist in the feces of humans and waterways.
Hundreds of animals have tested positive in Illinois, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Iowa and Ohio and researchers fear the entire US population of some 30 million may soon be infected.
Penn State University discovered that more than 80 per cent of white-tailed deer collected in Iowa from December 2020 to January 2021 were positive for SARS. Another study found that 67 percent of Michigan’s sampled deer had signs of the disease.
The findings, according to experts, highlight the ‘critical need to urgently implement surveillance programs to monitor SARS-CoV-2 spread within the deer and other susceptible wildlife species and put into place methods to mitigate potential spillback.’
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While experts are unsure how wild animals contracted COVID in this instance, there is a strong possibility that they have been drinking contaminated water. Studies show the virus persists in wastewater and feces.
It is known that animals can contract the coronavirus from humans, but most of the known cases are of those living in zoos where animals and humans are constantly in close contact.
However, it is not known if deer have ever transmitted the virus to humans.
Penn State University’s November study examined more than 300 samples from Iowa deer during 2020’s peak COVID-19-related infection.
Suresh Kuchipudi, associate director of the Animal Diagnostic Laboratory, Penn State, said in a statement: ‘We found that 80% of the sampled deer in December were positive for SARS-CoV-2, which proportionally represents about a 50-fold greater burden of positivity than what was reported at the peak of infection in humans at the time.
Penn State University conducted a November study that examined almost 300 deer samples taken from Iowa in the period of peak human COVID-19 infections.
Ohio State University scientists discovered that 35 percent of the 360 free-ranging deer were positive to nasal swabs. However, they showed no symptoms. The researchers identified three versions of SARS CoV-2 at six different locations.
‘The number of SARS-CoV-2 positive deer increased over the period from April to December 2020, with the greatest increases coinciding with the peak of deer hunting season last year.’
An additional study that was released last month showed similar results for white-tailed deer.
Researchers at Ohio State University conducted a study and found that 129 (35%) of 360 deer free to roam tested positive for nasal swabs, but had no symptoms.
The researchers identified three types of SARS CoV-2 from six different locations: B.1.2 (B.1.582), B.1.596 and B.1.596.
SARS-CoV-2 may mutate in between deer and could facilitate transmission to other species. However, there are no data to support this.
33% of all specimens contained antibodies for SARS-CoV-2, while 60% of Michigan deer were tested positive. The lowest was in Illinois with seven percent. Next came New York (18 percent) and Pennsylvania (34%).
SARS-CoV-2, which is also unmutated in deer, could survive and evolve in humans. At some point humans may not be immune to these strains.
Study author Professor Andrew Bowman at the Ohio State University, said in a statement: ‘Based on evidence from other studies, we knew they were being exposed in the wild and that in the lab we could infect them and the virus could transmit from deer to deer.
‘Here, we’re saying that in the wild, they are infected, and if they can maintain it, we have a new potential source of SARS-CoV-2 coming in to humans.’
In July 2021, the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, (APHIS), conducted an even larger study that covered several states, including New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania.
The antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 could be detected in 33% of total specimens. However, the detection was confirmed in 60% of Michigan’s deer samples.
Illinois was the least populous with seven percent. New York had 18 percent, and Pennsylvania had 34 percent.
There is no evidence to suggest that deer or other animals are contributing significantly in spreading SARS-CoV-2. APHIS stated that the likelihood of COVID-19 being spread to humans by animals is very low based on all available data.
APHIS reported that although antibodies were found, ‘none’ of the deer population surveyed had signs of SARS-CoV-2-related clinical illness.
APHIS that confirmed SARS-CoV-2 was spreading to wild mink last year, which resulted in millions of these animals being killed worldwide – with Denmark eradicating 17 million alone.
SARS-CoV-2 was spreading to wild mink last year, which resulted in millions of these animals being killed worldwide – with Denmark eradicating 17 million alone
Because researchers discovered the mink variant can spread back to people, while wild deer might only infect others.
A mutated coronavirus was found in minks and 12 people contracted it from October 2020. The large cull resulted.
The World Health Organization (WHO), shortly afterward, confirmed that five additional countries also had coronavirus infections linked to mink farms. These were the United States, Italy, Spain, Spain, and Sweden.
SARS-CoV-2 spread from humans to minks at fur farms. The virus’ spike proteins, which enable the virus invade cells, became more accessible to the animals.
Scientists believe that the mutation made COVID-19 less effective when it was passed back to humans.