CDC: COVID-19 surveillance efforts in wildlife 'now critical'

The CDC has removed an earlier recommendation from its animal testing guidance webpage that said state health officials could "avoid routine animal testing" as concerns grow over the potential for new coronavirus variants to emerge in animals and spread back to humans, CBS News reported April 11. 

"Given our current state of knowledge in the pandemic, we have updated CDC's 'Evaluation for SARS-CoV-2 Testing in Animals' to reflect that surveillance efforts are now critical for early detection and prevention of virus spillover from animals, specifically wildlife, to people," CDC spokesperson Jasmine Reed told CBS

The guidance is part of the agency's One Health initiative, focused on connections among human, animal and environmental health. 

"One of CDC's primary One Health concerns is the establishment of a North American animal reservoir in which the virus could 'hide,' mutate, and potentially re-emerge as a new variant in the human population," Ms. Reed said in a statement to CBS

Currently, the CDC says the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is low. 

The agency's guidance shift follows preliminary findings published in February in which researchers documented what they believe is the first instance of a human contracting COVID-19 from a white-tailed deer in Canada. Health experts in the U.S. have largely focused surveillance efforts on white-tailed deer, of which there are 30 million in the continental U.S. So far, surveillance efforts have indicated deer appear to be alone in spreading the coronavirus in the wild. 

"We also are starting to see efficient deer-to-deer transmission," said Jeff Bender, professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. "In other words, when deer get it, we're actually seeing that it actually seems to adapt to the deer and that, because of their nature, in congregations together that they can actually spread," he told the news outlet. 

 

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