Which animals are getting COVID-19? What are the implications for humans?

COVID Variants Infection and Spread

A. TL; DR. Many (but not all) non-human species are also getting COVID-19, although most go undiagnosed. The implication for humans is that these animals may serve as a reservoir for variants of the virus.

Over the course of the pandemic, the Nerdy Girls have occasionally provided updates on various non-human species that have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Zoo and USDA officials have reported on a range of domesticated and wild species who have tested positive for COVID-19 (e.g., cats, dogs, tigers, gorillas, mink, mule deer, and white-tailed deer). In addition, several brave biologists have found evidence of the SARS-CoV-2 infection in urban opossums and NYC rats (ew!). Not surprisingly, there’s not a ton of testing of wild animals for COVID-19, so there’s likely widespread underreporting. Generally, in most animals that do get the virus, symptoms appear to be mild. And in fact, there are many species that seem resistant to infection (e.g., bank voles, raccoons, cows, ducks and chickens).

The implication for humans is that various animals can become reservoirs for the virus while it undergoes mutations that may lead to more infections if transmitted back to humans. The CDC reports that the risk of humans contracting SARS-CoV-2 to people is low but this is an area that scientists need to keep an eye on as new variants emerge.

See the links below for other relevant articles and our previous posts on animals.

The search for animals harbouring coronavirus — and why it matters

COVID-19 is more widespread in animals than we thought

Deer in the U.S. have the virus that causes COVID-19.

What’s up with otters getting COVID-19?

Are pets getting sick from COVID?

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