For questions/concerns about this disease in humans, please call your doctor or the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS).
For questions about this disease/parasite in wildlife, please call the FWP Wildlife Health Lab at (406) 577-7882.
SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2) is a new coronavirus in humans causing a respiratory illness called COVID-19 which can be spread from person-to-person. In some cases, animals have been infected with SARS-CoV-2.
SARS-CoV-2 is responsible for a pandemic affecting humans world-wide.
Reports of animals infected with SARS-CoV-2 have been documented around the world. Most of these animals became infected after contact with people with COVID-19, including owners, caretakers, or others who were in close contact. We don’t yet know all of the species that can get infected, but wild white-tailed deer are the only free-ranging wildlife species in the U.S. in which infection with SARS-CoV-2 has been documented to date. The CDC website provides the following information regarding animal species susceptibility to infection with SARS-CoV-2:
SARS-CoV-2 spreads among humans when an infected person breathes out droplets and very small particles that contain the virus. These droplets and particles can be inhaled by other people or land on their eyes, noses, or mouth. In some circumstances, they may contaminate surfaces they touch. People who are closer than 6 feet from the infected person are most likely to get infected.
Transmission from humans to animals likely occurs via the same routes as transmission from person to person, and people should take precautions to avoid transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to wildlife. The route of transmission from humans to white-tailed deer is currently unknown.
The CDC currently states the risk of getting COVID-19 from animals in the United States, including wildlife, is low. We know that some mammals can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, and there is evidence that some free ranging White-tailed deer have been infected in the United States. More studies are needed to understand how the virus is being transmitted to wildlife, the potential impacts to wildlife, and whether there is potential for wildlife to serve as a reservoir for virus transmission back to humans.
Clinical signs of SARS-CoV-2 have not been observed in wild white-tailed deer. In addition, captive deer experimentally infected with SARS-CoV-2 as part of a USDA Agricultural Research Service study did not show clinical signs of illness (Palmer et. al, 2022). More study is needed to determine whether SARS-CoV-2 may have negative impacts on wildlife populations.
There is no evidence that animals, including deer, are playing a significant role in the spread of SARS-CoV-2 to people. Based on the available information, the CDC currently considers the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people to be low. However, because there is at least some potential for exposure SARS-CoV-2 or other zoonotic disease, hunters should always take basic precautions such as wearing gloves and using good hygiene when handling carcasses and field dressing animals.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Website. Animals and Covid-19. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/animals.html#:~:text=Research%20on%20animals%20and%20COVID%2D19&text=Recent%20experimental%20research%20shows%20that,be%20infected%20with%20the%20virus.
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