The US government on Friday confirmed the world’s first case of COVID-19 in a deer, expanding the list of animals that have contracted the infection.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) confirmed 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,” the department said in a press release.
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.
“We do not know how the deer were exposed to SARS-CoV-2,” USDA spokeswoman Lyndsay Cole wrote in an e-mail to Reuters. “It’s possible they were exposed through people, the environment, other deer, or another animal species.”
The USDA has previously reported the novel coronavirus in animals including dogs, cats, tigers, lions, snow leopards, otters, gorillas and minks.