New evidence revealed that SARS-CoV-2 is spreading significantly in white-tailed deer in the U.S., sparking potential concern about long-term implications to the coronavirus pandemic in humans.

In a study published last week, veterinarians at Pennsylvania State University found active SARS-CoV-2 infections in at least 30% of white-tailed deer tested positive across Iowa during 2020. These new findings, which were verified by federal scientists at the National Veterinary Services Laboratories, come on the heels of a USDA study in August that showed 40% of the deer population in the Northeast and Midwest to have antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.

Dr. Diego Diel, an associate professor of virology at Cornell University, explained that SARS-CoV-2 is the “virus that actually causes” the disease COVID-19.

That widespread carriage of SARS-CoV-2 by deer draws concern due to the possibility of the animals carrying the virus indefinitely – to where they could spread it back to humans in periodic form.

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