Washington, D.C., August 27, 2021 -- The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) today announced confirmation of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) 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 2021 by The Ohio State University 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 from the deer tested presumptive positive at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine and the cases were confirmed at NVSL. 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. Such testing is required for certain animal diseases in the United States in order to comply with national and international reporting procedures. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) considers SARS-CoV-2 an emerging disease, and therefore USDA must report confirmed U.S. animal infections to the OIE.
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. 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, using a One Health approach.
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.
While additional animals may test positive as infections continue in people, it is important to note that performing this animal testing does not reduce the availability of tests for humans.
We are still learning about SARS-CoV-2 in animals. Based on the information available, the risk of animals spreading the virus to people is considered to be low.
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.
For more information on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 between people and wildlife, visit https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/covid-19/wildlife.html
For more information about COVID-19 and animals and recommendations for pet owners and people who work around animals, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/animals/pets-other-animals.html
For more information about how and when to test animals, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/animals/animal-testing.html and https://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/one_health/downloads/faq-public-on-companion-animal-testing.pdf
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