COVID-19 virus found in white-tailed deer in Ohio: USDA

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories announced Aug. 27 that SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — was confirmed in wild white-tailed deer in Ohio.

These are the first deer confirmed with the SARS-CoV-2 virus worldwide, although earlier studies have shown both that deer can be experimentally infected with the virus and that some wild deer had antibodies to the virus.’

Samples from the deer were collected between January and March by Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine as part of ongoing deer damage management activities.  There were no reports of any deer showing clinical signs of infection.    

Samples and the cases were confirmed by the National Veterinary Services Laboratories. NVSL serves as an international reference laboratory and provides expertise and guidance on diagnostic techniques, as well as confirmatory testing for foreign and emerging animal diseases. 

SARS-CoV-2 infections have been reported in a small number of animal species worldwide, mostly in animals that had close contact with a person with COVID-19. The first case of an animal testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 in the U.S. was a tiger with a respiratory illness at a zoo in New York City.

Based on the information available, the risk of animals spreading the virus to people is considered to be low.

At this time, routine testing of animals is not recommended. State, tribal, local and territorial animal health and public health officials will work with USDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make determinations about whether animals should be tested for SARS-CoV-2.

USDA will announce cases of confirmed SARS-CoV-2 in animals each time the virus is found in a new species. Confirmed cases in animals are posted at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/sa_one_health/sars-cov-2-animals-us.

People with COVID-19 can spread the virus to animals during close contact. It is important for people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to avoid contact with pets and other animals to protect them from possible infection. 

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