October 3, 2023

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USDA releases study on COVID-19 transmission between whitetail deer and humans

USDA releases study on COVID-19 transmission between whitetail deer and humans


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has released results of its first nationwide study of active infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and sampling .

These studies suggest that SARS-CoV-2 is likely to have spread widely in the US whitetail deer population. Studies have shown that SARS-CoV-2 has spread widely among American white-tailed deer, possibly from humans, and then mutated in the population and possibly spread back to humans.


USDA releases study on COVID-19 transmission between whitetail deer and humans


The research helps us understand whether cervids such as white-tailed deer serve as reservoirs or “reservoir species,” animal hosts in which the virus can survive and potentially mutate.


While experts are still learning about SARS-CoV-2 in animals, there is no evidence that animals played a significant role in transmitting the virus to humans.


Dr. Mike Watson, APHIS Acting Administrator, said: “Through this study, APHIS continues to answer key animal and public health questions surrounding SARS-CoV-2. However, more research is needed using a ‘One Health’ approach to understand The continued spread of this disease in wildlife poses risks to wildlife conservation and public health.”


Minnesota Wildlife Services Director Gary Nohrenberg discusses first year whitetail monitoring data. The study continues APHIS’ work on SARS-CoV-2 in wildlife, helping the agency better understand how the disease, which affects humans and animals, spreads and evolves in wildlife, and how the research enables us to Better prepare for future animal disease outbreaks.


APHIS is now in its second year of this research and has expanded SARS-CoV-2 disease surveillance to other members of the cervid family as well as other states, territories and tribes. In the first year of sampling, APHIS and partners sampled more than 11,000 white-tailed deer for SARS-CoV-2.

We detected the virus in 12.2% of white-tailed deer, and 31.6% of white-tailed deer had antibodies, indicating previous exposure to SARS-CoV-2. Year 1 surveillance data, Q&A and other information about the APHIS Whitetail Deer Surveillance Program are available on the APHIS website.


APHIS, state wildlife agencies, and others are collaborating on wildlife surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 as part of an important effort to strengthen our nation’s ability to detect and respond to future emerging diseases in animals.

APHIS, in collaboration with the University of Missouri and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recently published a surveillance-generated study: “SARS-CoV-2 Transmission in Free-range White-tailed Deer in the United States.”


During November 2021 through April 2022, APHIS, state and tribal wildlife agencies, Ohio State University, and the University of Missouri conducted wildlife surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 on free-ranging white-tailed deer in 27 States have collected more than 9,000 respiratory samples.

We found that in the United States, SARS-CoV-2 has been transmitted from humans to white-tailed deer at least 106 times, and 3 times may have been transmitted to humans after mutation.


Xiu-Feng “Henry” Wan, Ph.D., professor at the University of Missouri and director of the NextGen Center for Influenza and Emerging Infectious Diseases, said: “Deer interact with humans frequently and are often found in the environments where humans live — our homes, pets, wastewater and trash. The potential for SARS-CoV-2, or any zoonotic disease, to persist and evolve in wildlife populations poses unique public health risks.”


APHIS is currently working on several projects to understand how the SARS-CoV-2 virus behaves in different animals, how it spreads between animals and humans, and how its public health partners can break chains of transmission. A

PHIS’ strategic framework outlines how the agency will focus its efforts on preventing, detecting, investigating and responding to SARS-CoV-2 in animals and other emerging diseases that may threaten humans and animals.


“This research helps us better understand how a disease that can affect both humans and animals spreads and evolves in the real world, and allows us to better prepare for future infectious diseases,” said CDC researcher Dr. Ria Ghai. break out.”


Human, animal and environmental health groups are increasingly collaborating when issues of “One Health” arise. Working together, APHIS and its One Health partners leverage unique skills, knowledge, specific perspectives and experiences to enhance understanding of SARS-CoV-2 and improve the ability to detect disease more quickly.






APHIS Releases Research on Sars-Cov-2 Transmission in White-Tailed Deer Throughout the U.S.

USDA releases study on COVID-19 transmission between whitetail deer and humans

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