White-tailed deer becoming virus reservoir 'a top concern right now,' CDC official says

White-tailed deer are easily infected by the coronavirus, with some experts now concerned they may become a reservoir for the virus to mutate and spread, The New York Times reported Feb. 7. 

The virus has spread among other species, such as mink and big cats. White-tailed deer — of which there are 30 million in the continental U.S. — becoming a reservoir for the virus is particularly concerning both because of how closely they live alongside people and their large population. 

If the virus were to become widespread among the species, it could open up new chances for the pathogen to mutate and spread to other animals, or back to humans in the form of a new variant. 

"This is a top concern right now for the United States," said Casey Barton Behravesh, who directs the CDC's One Health Office, which focuses on connections among human, animal and environmental health. "If deer were to become established as a North American wildlife reservoir — and we do think they're at risk of that — there are real concerns for the health of other wildlife species, livestock, pets and even people," she told the Times

Scientists are still exploring a number of questions regarding the virus's spread among deer, such as how deer contract the virus, how the pathogen might mutate inside the host, and whether deer could pass the virus back to humans.

 

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