Ottawa announced, Wednesday, that three white-tailed deer in eastern regions have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19.
These are the first cases detected in wild species in Canada.
“Samples of these deer were taken between November 6 and 8, 2021 in the Istrian region,” the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change said in a statement. Sampling was carried out at game recording stations for hunters, defines Steve Cottier, full professor in the Department of Biology at Université Laval.
“The deer have not shown any clinical signs of disease and everyone appears to be in good health,” said the ministry, which said it had warned the World Organization for Animal Health on Wednesday. Steve Coty says it’s the same scenario with white-tailed deer in the United States, despite the high number of cases detected in Michigan.
Recent reports in the US show that SARS-CoV-2 was transmitted to wild white-tailed deer via humans, but it is not known if this occurred in the eastern suburbs. Coty says transmission may be caused by an environmental factor such as water.
There is no “transition case” from deer to human
So far, the ministry said, “no cases of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by deer to humans have been detected.” For Mr Côté, at the moment, there are “no major concerns” on the matter. If the situation could evolve, there is no study pointing in that direction at the moment, the professor is reassured.
Since hunting season is almost over everywhere in Quebec, “there is no critical situation” at this level, says Steve Cott.
It’s too early to think of a vaccine
Cote says that given the virus’s minimal effects on deer, it is “premature” to consider a vaccine option for these animals. Complicating matters further, vaccinating a group of white-tailed deer would be complicated, among other things because it would require the use of “specific baits” for the species.
The Department of Environment and Climate Change says it is continuing to “evaluate the potential impacts of the virus on Canadian wildlife.” The ministry said deer sampling will continue at several sites across the country until 2022.
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