A new coronavirus outbreak in Iowa deer is prompting scientists to worry if the animals could be a reservoir for the virus in the long term. The disease has been fatal to many of its victims, and while there have been no reported human cases, experts are still apprehensive about humans contracting it from wild animals.
The virus causes respiratory disease in deer and is similar to the coronavirus responsible for SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), according to a study published last month. The signs include fever, lack of appetite and diarrhea. Infected animals can take up to three weeks before they die, and there is no treatment since the virus cannot be treated with antibiotics.
The researchers are concerned that white-tailed deer could become a reservoir for the virus, spreading it to other areas. There is also concern because the virus has jumped from one species to another in the past it was originally found in bats before jumping to humans.
The research team collected over 800 samples of heart and lung tissue from clinically ill white-tailed deer between May 2009 and October 2011. Three of those samples tested positive for the virus, which has been named Deer Lung Coronavirus (DLCV).
We found that infection with DLCV can be widespread in a population and potentially severe enough to kill multiple animals, said Sarah Hamer, one of the researchers. There is also a risk of transmission to other species, including humans, in areas where the virus is endemic and spillover to new areas—as with any zoonotic pathogen.
I posted this video a while back on the DNA thread, but I think it’s more relevant here. There are a lot of new members and people who have stopped going to that site so they may have not seen it before. It’s just a quick primer on how some diseases can jump from one species to another. Maybe this will be the one that comes out of the deer and threatens human life… I really don’t know, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
I’m surprised nobody took this up before me. I’m not a regular visitor of the DNA, but this definitely sounds interesting and fits in with what we know about viruses jumping from species to species. The question now is if it can infect humans or has done so already without us knowing about it.
It seems like such an obvious topic for an article, so why didn’t anyone write one yet? I guess no one has cared about this animal disease enough to do some research on it. If you have, please contact me through private message.
If you’re wondering what the hell zoonotic means, don’t worry because I was wondering the same thing while writing this. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it means: Relating to, capable of being transmitted from animals to humans; (of diseases) occurring in both humans and other animals.
So there you have it. While we know that diseases like swine flu can infect multiple species, we usually don’t think about those like coronaviruses which affect different types of animals. It’s possible that this deer virus has already infected humans and we don’t know about it yet.
I think I’ll try and find out more on this topic and write another article if I get the chance.