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Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
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NWDP - SARS-CoV-2

image of deer
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has caused a global pandemic. The potential for spillover of the virus to wildlife is a concern because of the potential health impacts to wildlife, domestic animals, and humans, as well as the possible establishment of new wildlife reservoirs of the virus. Consequently, APHIS researchers have worked to identify susceptible wildlife species and the NWDP began collecting surveillance samples for SARS-CoV-2 from white-tailed deer in 2020. Of note, several recent SARS-CoV-2 studies in white-tailed deer have produced evidence of both deer-to-deer and human-to-deer transmission of different SARS-CoV-2 variants in both captive and free-ranging deer populations in multiple US states.

White-tailed deer are one of the most economically important game species in the United States with an estimated population of 30 million deer found throughout most of the United States. Additionally, white-tailed deer have considerable interaction with humans across broad landscapes, particularly in urban-suburban environments, leading to multiple potential sources of SARS-CoV-2 exposure in local deer populations. Gaining a greater understanding of susceptibility, prevalence, transmission, and disease processes of SARS-CoV-2 in white-tailed deer populations is important to protect human and animal health, and for the future development of risk mitigation strategies.

Affected Species

At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading SARS-CoV-2, to people; however, there have been reports of infected animals (e.g., mink, hamsters, and deer) spreading the virus to people during close contact. More studies and surveillance are needed to understand how SARS-CoV-2 is spread between people and animals. Another priority is understanding how SARS-CoV-2 spillback into novel wildlife reservoirs may affect pathogen adaptation, evolution, and transmission. Known animal species susceptible to SARS-CoV-2:

researcher releasing a deer in the wild

  • White-tailed Deer
  • Mink
  • Lion
  • Dog
  • Mule Deer
  • House Cat
  • Snow Leopard
  • Tiger
  • Gorilla
  • Spotted Hyena
  • Coati
  • Ferret
  • Otter
  • Cougar
  • Hippopotamus

NWDP Activities

Wildlife Services (WS), in cooperation with Veterinary Services (VS), the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), Tribal nations, and individual State wildlife agencies, has implemented an enhanced, multi-phased surveillance plan of SARS-CoV-2 in WTD with participating entities across the US.

More Information

USDA APHIS | Cases of SARS-CoV-2 in Animals in the United States

NWDP Coordinator

Julianna B. Lenoch, DVM, MPH
Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine
Julianna.B.Lenoch@usda.gov 
(970) 266-6056
USDA/APHIS/WS4101 Laporte Ave
Fort Collins, CO 80521


Avian Health | Chronic Wasting Disease | Bovine Tuberculosis | Feral Swine | Plague | RHDV2 | SARS-CoV-2 | SERS

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