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Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
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USDA FAQ's and resources about coronavirus (COVID-19).  LEARN MORE

One Health - Keeping Animals and People Safe from SARS-CoV-2

One Health SARS-CoV-2 in Animals Building an Early Warning System Keeping Animals and People Safe Animal Health Officials and Veterinarians Funding Opportunities

What You Need to Know

  • The risk of animals spreading SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to people is low.
  • The virus can spread from people to animals during close contact.
  • More studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19.
  • People with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should avoid contact with animals, including pets, livestock, and wildlife.

Pet Owners

Pets worldwide, including cats and dogs, have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. APHIS is working with One Health partners, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to better understand this virus. For information on how to protect your pets from the virus or what to do if you think your pet might have SARS-CoV-2, visit CDC’s What You Should Know About COVID-19 and Pets page.

Animal Producers

APHIS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state animal health partners have developed the following guidance to help animal producers prevent and control the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in certain animal species that are susceptible to the disease.

Interim SARS-CoV-2 Guidance and Recommendations for Farmed Mink and Other Mustelids
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USDA’s Agriculture Research Service (ARS) completed emergency research on SARS-CoV-2 in order to better understand how this virus might impact the cervid industry. The ARS research shows that white-tailed deer fawns can be experimentally infected with the SARS-CoV-2. Once infected, the fawns were able to spread the virus to other white-tailed deer fawns in the same room without direct contact.

The study did not evaluate the susceptibility of other cervid species, nor did it look at whether white-tailed deer can catch the infection from people or spread infection to humans. ARS is repeating their research in order to gather more information, including establishing the infectious dose and understanding the duration of virus shedding.

After the results of the ARS study were released, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) completed a study that analyzed serum samples from free-ranging white-tailed deer for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Results of the study indicate that certain white-tailed deer populations in Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania were exposed to SARS-CoV-2. Antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 were detected in 33% of the 481 samples collected from January 2020 through 2021. None of the deer populations surveyed showed signs of clinical illness associated with SARS-CoV-2.

It is important to note that this surveillance was designed to determine exposure of deer to SARS-CoV-2 in their natural environment. It was not designed to determine whether the deer were replicating and shedding SARS-CoV-2.

Can people get COVID-19 from white-tailed deer?

We are still learning about SARS-CoV-2 in animals, but there is currently no evidence that animals, including deer, play a significant role in spreading the virus to humans. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading SARS-CoV-2 to people is low.

The primary route of transmission of this virus is from person to person: between people who are in close contact with one another (within six feet) or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. Airborne transmission over long distances is unlikely.

It may also be possible that a person can get COVD-19 by touching a contaminated surface or object that has the virus on it, and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

People can spread the virus to other people, as well as animals, before they show symptoms, or even if they do not have any symptoms. Information on the risk of game hunting and consuming hunter-harvested game meat is located here under CDC guidance for Pets and Animals.

Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by the virus that causes COVID-19 and the role animals may play in the spread of the virus.

Protecting the Health of Your Animals

To ensure the health and safety of animals and people on your farm, follow biosecurity and safety guidance. 

Biosecurity is a series of management practices designed to reduce the risk of disease agents being introduced and spread on the farm. In broad terms, it refers to anything designed to prevent the transfer of disease-causing pathogens. Biosecurity is crucial to control and contain a disease such as COVID-19, as well as in the daily management practices protecting the health of farm workers and animals. To be effective, biosecurity measures need to be disease-specific, as well as site-specific.

Take these steps to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission:

  • Minimize human-animal interactions by restricting access to your premises and all buildings that house cervids.
  • Do not handle cervids if you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
  • Wear a cloth face mask* and gloves when working with cervids.

*Cloth face coverings may prevent people, including those who are unaware they have the virus, from spreading it to others, but they may not protect the wearer from exposure to the virus. Cloth face coverings do not function the same way as personal protective equipment (PPE) such as a respirator.

Immediately wash your hands* with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after:

  • Having direct contact with animals, their food, or supplies, waste/feces.
  • Cleaning up after animals, including any body fluids or waste.
  • Leaving areas where animals are housed (even if you did not touch an animal).
  • Removing cloth face coverings, gloves, boots, etc.

*An alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol can be used on hands that are not visibly dirty when soap and water are not available. If hands are visibly dirty, wash hands with soap and water before using alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

Cleaning and disinfecting are important to protecting your herd and yourself. Follow these guidelines:

  • Avoid using cleaning methods that might spray infectious material into the air, including compressed air and/or water under pressure.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) may be needed when cleaning or disinfecting a potentially contaminated area.
  • Follow the cleaning or disinfectant product manufacturer’s instructions for use. Follow recommendations for safe practices for how to put on and take off PPE.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as tools and equipment.
  • Follow biosecurity practices on the farm, including having dedicated boots and clothing that remain in areas where animals are handled.
  • To disinfect, use products that meet EPA’s criteria for use against COVID-19, diluted household bleach solutions prepared according to the manufacturer’s label for disinfection, or alcohol solutions with at least 60% alcohol, and are appropriate for the surface. Follow manufacturer’s directions for proper use and recommended PPE.

Zoos and Other Captive Wildlife Facilities

COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control Assessment Tool for Captive Wildlife Facilities: Zoos, Sanctuaries, Aquaria, and Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centers: This checklist provides a guide for baseline biosecurity measures and controls that should be in place to prevent transmission of SARS-CoV-2 between animals housed in captive wildlife facilities and people (including employees such as caretakers, maintenance staff, and other employees, volunteers, and the public) who may have direct or indirect contact with animals or their environment.

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