Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Deer Covid,

I've been reading that white-tail deer have turned up with COVID--and not just one strain but at least 3, implying multiple infection incidents. I take that to also mean that researchers have DNA-sequenced the viruses and are sure it isn't something else.

One of the more notable characteristics of the deer is their extreme efforts at social distancing from humans. Living in the great outdoors, at least in humans, seems to reduce the respiratory transmission rate too. When deer are alone with each other they do congregate, so they could share the bug easily, but how does the bug get from sick human to wild deer?

Different models might be distinguishable...

  • Deer are really really really susceptible to the airborne virus, and can catch it from a few viruses. They wouldn't have to be very close to humans then. And they'd spread it among themselves like fire.

    This should be easy to test. Get a deer from one of those deer farms and try to infect it.

  • Deer get really close to people at deer feeders. I've never seen one myself, but I've heard of them. Not suburban, and not exactly rural either--on the outskirts of town but far enough away from tempting farms... I'd expect the people who expect deer to show up to be people who are fairly isolated (or else the deer would be spooked) and thus less likely to have the bug in the first place.

    I have no good idea for how to test this. You could do a longitudinal study--ask people not to feed the deer because they're getting sick and then see if wild deer get new variants. Lots of luck with getting cooperation.

  • A variant of the above: deer feeders to attract wild deer to make later hunting easier.

    No cooperation here either...

  • COVID has more than one mode of infecting people/animals. We know that the earlier forms were pretty much entirely spread through the air--there weren't outbreaks around grocery sto res, for example. But the virus turns up in the sewer. WHO said on 29-July-2020 "there is no evidence to date that COVID-19 virus has been transmitted via sewerage systems, with or without wastewater treatment." That wouldn't be a grave surprise, but having it transmitted at some small level wouldn't be a grave surprise either. I don't think deer eat trash much, which might be another way of getting the virus into them. There's no guarantee that deer can't be infected by means that don't bother humans so much--our digestions are different.

    Once again, get a few deer and try to infect them

  • Something else with closer contact with humans also has close contact with deer, and serves as a vector for the disease. We know cats get it, though cats aren't generally close to deer.

    What else around the yard gets it? Birds? Surely not mosquitoes--Africa would be swamped with it then.

Further research required..

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