A few weeks ago, Hong Kong had to euthanize nearly 2,000 hamsters after an outbreak of coronavirus was detected among rodents.
According to health experts, several people were infected with COVID-19 after interacting with the animals.
Now, concern has shifted to New York after a team of researchers from Pennsylvania State University detected the presence of the omicron variant in a group of 20 white-tailed deer on Staten Island.
It is believed that these specimens could have been infected between December 2021 and January 2022 and the work carried out by scientists constitutes the first report on the spread of omicron to wild animals.
“We did not expect to find this level of widespread infection. It was quite surprising and also quite concerning,” explains Penn State Animal Diagnostic Laboratory director Suresh Kuchipudi in an interview with Business Insider.
For now, scientists are concerned that deer may serve as a reservoir for the coronavirus.
They point out that there is a possibility that the virus could evolve in deer to better evade vaccine protection, thus passing to humans as a more dangerous variant.
In any case, scientists emphasize that, for now, the possibility of this happening is less.
“Could the deer become a host that gives rise to successful lineages in humans? I still think it’s unlikely,” adds Cooper.
“We are actually becoming a more difficult population to invade because the lead virus is so prevalent.”