Three deer infected with the COVID-19 virus in Quebec
On November 29, 2021, the National Center for Foreign Animal Diseases of the Canadian Agency Food Inspection Agency has confirmed the first detections of SARS-CoV-2 in three wild deer in Canada. Samples were collected from these deer between November 6 and 8, 2021, in the Eastern Townships region, Quebec. Similar to results from the United States, the deer showed no clinical signs of disease and were all apparently healthy.
Recent reports in the United States present evidence that SARS-CoV-2 was transmitted from humans to wild white-tailed deer, and subsequent spread of the virus has been observed among deer. No case of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from deer to humans has been detected to date.
Animal and COVID-19 data are limited, but indicate that the virus has infected several species globally, including farmed mink, pets (e.g. cats, dogs and ferrets) and animals in zoos (such as tigers, lions, gorillas, cougars and otters). Animals can act as a reservoir for viruses and they can promote its spread. The virus could come back to haunt us once the pandemic is over, moving back from deer to humans.
As this is the first case of SARS-CoV-2 infection in a wildlife species in Canada, data on the impact and spread of the virus in wild deer populations is currently limited. This result underscores the importance of continued monitoring for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in wildlife to better understand the possible transmission of the virus between humans and animals.
“Currently, there is little information available on the link between animals and COVID-19, particularly on whether animals can spread the virus. In most cases, humans infect animals (human-to-animal transmission), ”Health Canada explains regarding the risk of COVID-19 transmission from animals to humans on its website.
Federal, provincial and territorial partners continue to monitor and assess the possible impact of the virus on Canadian wildlife.
COVID-19 remains largely a disease that affects humans and spreads between humans. The main ways to protect yourself from COVID-19 are to follow public health advice and get fully immunized. While waiting to learn more and as an additional precaution, it is recommended to wear a properly fitted mask if exposed to respiratory tissues and fluids from deer, practice good hand hygiene and avoid as much as possible to splash or spray the fluids from these tissues.