Forty percent of white-tailed deer sampled from four states between January and March 2021 had antibodies from the virus that causes Covid-19.
White-tailed deer, a species found in every U.S. state except Alaska, appear to be contracting the coronavirus in the wild, according to the first study to search for evidence of an outbreak in wild deer.
Researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) analyzed blood samples from more than 600 deer in Michigan, Illinois, New York, and Pennsylvania over the past decade, and they discovered that 152 wild deer, 40 percent of the deer tested from January through March 2021, had antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Another three deer from January 2020 also had antibodies.
Their presence means that deer likely had encountered the virus and then fought it off. The animals didn’t appear sick, so they probably had asymptomatic infections, the agency says.
Roughly 30 million white-tailed deer live in the U.S.
Hunters concerned with eating meat from infected deer have no need to fear. According to the USDA, there is no evidence people can get COVID by eating or preparing meat from infected animals.
Samples were collected from deer in 32 counties across the four states. Samples for the study were obtained opportunistically as part of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s wildlife damage management activities, according to the USDA.
San Diego Zoo races to vaccinate lions, tigers and other vulnerable species
SAN DIEGO — How do you vaccinate a tiger? Or a cheetah? Or a baboon? Carefully — very carefully. And with lots of training and treats.
As coronavirus cases surge throughout the region, the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park are hustling to immunize an array of animals that could give Noah’s Ark a run for its money, including tigers, Vervet monkeys, hyenas and other critters that the staff thinks could be vulnerable to the virus. By the end of this week, zookeepers will have doled out first doses to roughly 250 animals, many of them endangered species.
“We’re in a very similar situation to where us humans were just a few months ago, when vaccines were [first] available,” said Dr. Hendrik Nollens, who leads the veterinary teams for the zoo and Safari Park. “Now it’s this race against time. Who’s going to get there first: vaccine or virus?”
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