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SARS-CoV-2 - Detected in Eastern Townships White Tailed Deer Population

On November 29, 2021, the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease (CFIA) confirmed the first detections of SARS-CoV-2 in three free-ranging white-tailed deer in Canada. These deer were sampled between November 6 to 8, 2021, in the Estrie ( Eastern Townships) region of Quebec.

Samples for SARS-CoV-2 were collected through a big game registration station in southern Quebec, and three were reported as positive.

The deer the samples were taken from appeared to be healthy and showed no signs of the disease.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) was notified on December 1, 2021.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the Public Health Agency of Canada, Parks Canada, provincial and territorial governments, Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC), and academic partners have been proactively engaged in research to investigate whether SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has spilled into wildlife.

Recent reports in the United States have revealed evidence of spillover of SARS-CoV-2 from humans to wild white-tailed deer, with subsequent spread of the virus among deer. There has been no known transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from deer to humans at this time.

A study conducted in the USA reports that the possibility exists that new animal reservoirs of SARS-CoV-2 could emerge, each with unique potential to maintain, disseminate, and drive novel evolution of the virus. The PNAS report from November showed SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in 40 per cent of blood samples collected from deer in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, New York during 2021.

This is the first time the virus has been found in wild animals in Canada, and Scott Weese, an infectious disease veterinarian from the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph stated in an interview with the CBC that more concerning scenario, is that it could continue to spread to other deer and other species, becoming a possible source of infection for humans, and a source of more variants.

Until more is known and as an added precaution, it is recommended that you wear a well-fitting mask when exposed to respiratory tissues and fluids from deer, practice good hand hygiene, and avoid splashing/spraying fluids from these tissues as much as possible.

Additional information is available on exposure and transmission of COVID-19 in various wildlife species can be found at Animals and COVID-19.



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