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Possible deer-to-human COVID-19 case reported in Canada

Did COVID-19 spread from a deer to a human?

SHARE Possible deer-to-human COVID-19 case reported in Canada
A young white-tailed deer.

A young white-tailed deer looks up from a hillside, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021, in Marple Township, Pa. A possible case of deer-to-human COVID-19 transmission has been identified in Canada.

Matt Slocum, Associated Press

A possible case of deer-to-human COVID-19 transmission has been identified in Canada.

What happened: A new research paper identified a possible case where a deer transmitted COVID-19 to humans.

  • Researchers said in a new paper — posted on the preprint service bioRxiv before peer review — that they found “a genetically similar version of the virus was identified in a person from the same region of Ontario who had recently been in contact with deer,” CBC News reports.

Yes, but: The researchers said it’s unlikely the deer could bypass COVID-19 vaccines, per The Guardian.

What they’re saying: “This particular case, while raising a red flag, doesn’t seem to be hugely alarming,” Finlay Maguire, who collaborated on the research, told CBC News.

  • “While we haven’t seen (transmission from deer to human) happen directly, we sampled from the human case around the same time we sampled from the deer, and we sampled from around the same location,” Maguire said.
  • “There is also a plausible link by which it could have happened, in that the individual involved is known to have had considerable contact with deer.”
  • The doe had no comment.

Why it matters: Scientists have feared that COVID-19 could continue to spread among deer, leaving the virus unchecked. This could lead to future COVID-19 variants that scientists would struggle to see coming.

  • According to The New York Times, “longer-term, widespread circulation of the virus in deer would give the virus more opportunity to mutate, potentially giving rise to new variants that could spill over into people or other animal species.”

Flashback: Scientists discovered back in February that white-tailed deer can carry the omicron variant, which was a sign to researchers that deers could carry COVID-19 variants of concern, as I reported for the Deseret News.

  • This wasn’t the first time. Back in November 2021, researchers in Iowa said that they had discovered deer that had been infected by the coronavirus, per the Deseret News.