Canadian deer infected with COVID-19 increase threat of new variants

OTTAWA: The virus that causes COVID-19 has been detected for the first time in Canada’s wild deer population and no one really knows what that means.

Federal authorities say they have been testing for SARS-CoV-2 since it was discovered in wild deer in the United States in the spring and last week a Canadian laboratory confirmed that the coronavirus was identified in three wild white species. “on freedom”. tailed deer in the eastern municipalities, a region of Quebec that borders the US.

Although the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from deer to humans is not known, Ottawa advises people to take precautions if exposed to the “respiratory tissues and fluids” of deer.

Scott Weese, an infectious disease veterinarian at the Ontario Veterinary College and director of the Center for Public Health and Zoonoses, said in an interview that the discovery is not a surprise, but it is cause for concern if the deer population turns into a new “reservoir”. by the coronavirus.

“We don’t want this in an animal because then they are a new source of infection over time, because we are not going to eradicate it from animals,” he said. The other concern is the potential for development of variants that would complicate the fight against COVID-19.

“There is always the possibility that the virus changes, and if it does so in a new host, a new species … to adapt to that host, what we do not want to do is circulate around a deer that can later infect us or create new variants that can later infect us. We don’t know if that’s going to happen, but that’s why we’re looking into it. “

The coronavirus has spread from humans to other animal populations around the world, infecting many species that come into contact with humans, but there have been no reports of those animals later transmitting the virus to humans.

Weese suggested there is more deer-human contact than people think, especially in suburban areas. Deer can be found foraging in backyards and can come into contact with people or other animals, such as cats, that may be infected.

In a statement Wednesday, the environment department said “there is no known transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from deer to humans at this time.”

He repeated the old Ottawa public health advice to Canadians to get fully vaccinated and recommended that people also wear a well-fitting mask “when exposed to deer respiratory tissues and fluids, practice good hygiene. off your hands and avoid splashing / spraying fluids from these tissues as much as possible. “

Weese, who posted a helpful blog post, says the risk to hunters “is a big question.” Hunters have the potential to be exposed to respiratory sprays on injured animals, as well as close contact with carcasses, he says. Venison if cooked properly “presumably” does not pose a risk, and the risk of handling roadkill is minimized as dead deer do not breathe, but people should take precautions when handling a carcass or injured deer, he said.


The conversations are the opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of conduct. The Star does not endorse these views.

Leave a Comment