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Animal Health & Diagnostic Services

USDA APHIS SARS-CoV-2 Research Notice

Recent research conducted by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has indicated that wild white-tailed deer in Pennsylvania were exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans. There were no signs of clinical illness in any of the surveyed deer populations. There is no evidence to indicate that deer can spread the virus to humans. These findings are not surprising, given the close proximity of deer to human populations experiencing widespread infections, and prior research demonstrating that white-tailed deer are susceptible to the virus. Additional research is in progress.

Deer and other wildlife may carry diseases that can spread to humans. The general public should avoid contact with wildlife and not attempt to approach any wild species. Additionally, it is unlawful to intentionally feed deer within CWD Disease Management Areas in Pennsylvania. There also is no evidence to indicate that SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted through food preparation and consumption. Hunters should always practice good hygiene while field dressing harvests.

Keeping Pennsylvania Growing means protecting animals born and raised here, as well as those who may enter our state.  The Bureau of Animal Health and Diagnostic Services (BAHDS) is responsible for controlling and eradicating diseases in livestock and poultry.  This mission is critical since these diseases have the potential to impact human health and cause significant economic loss to farmers and the commonwealth.  In addition, BAHDS administers regulatory programs for animal health certification, containment of diseased animals and elimination of disease agents.

Pennsylvania is also home to a tri-partite animal health laboratory system called the Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostic Laboratory System, or PADLS.  PADLS connects the Pennsylvania Veterinary Laboratory (PVL) in Harrisburg, Penn State University's Animal Diagnostic Laboratory (ADL) and the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine's New Bolton Center to provide laboratory testing, field-based monitoring and producer outreach, all with a focus on protecting our citizens, our food supply and our animal agriculture industry.

With millions of livestock and poultry in Pennsylvania, BAHDS has a presence throughout the state with Veterinary Medical Field Officers and Domestic Animal Health Inspectors headquartered across seven regions.  These staff members work closely with the farming and non-farming public on issues ranging from suspected rabies cases to farm-based animal health questions.

The work performed everyday by BAHDS is essential to protecting U.S. livestock and poultry industries from foreign animal diseases, which, in turn, protects our food supply and our citizens.  Maintaining a healthy animal agriculture industry is also a key step to ensuring Pennsylvania's trade status with other states and nations is not negatively impacted by an outbreak within our borders.

Our mission is just one facet of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's mandate to ensure the safety, accessibility and prosperity of our commonwealth's agriculture sector, and we take it very seriously.  Please contact us at RA-ahds@pa.gov or (717) 772-2852 with general inquiries, or visit our program pages for more specific background and contact information.