August 30, 2021

On Friday, August 27, 2021, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced the confirmation of SARS-CoV-2 in white-tailed deer in Ohio. This finding was possible through the work of the eSCOUT team, an interdisciplinary group of researchers started and supported by the Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) at The Ohio State University.

photo of a male white-tailed deer


eSCOUT stands for environmental surveillance for COVID-19 in Ohio: understanding transmission. Through sampling wildlife and waterways in Ohio, the team aims to discover what environmental and animal reservoirs might contain the SARS-CoV-2 virus and assess the risk of viral exchange between human and animal populations as well as the environment. Vanessa Hale, DVM, PhD, Assistant Professor of Veterinary Preventive Medicine and IDI Microbial Communities thematic program co-director, leads the eSCOUT team, and Andrew Bowman, DVM, PhD, Associate Professor of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, oversees testing of wildlife samples in his lab.

What we do and don’t know:

Since the establishment of the eSCOUT team in Fall 2020, Dr. Bowman’s lab has tested samples from many wildlife and production animal species, and white-tailed deer were the only ones to test positive for SARS-CoV-2.

These are the first deer confirmed to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 worldwide, but previous studies have shown that white-tailed deer have the ACE-2 protein receptors capable of binding to SARS-CoV-2. It is unknown how these deer were exposed to SARS-CoV-2. There is no evidence that animals, including deer, are playing a significant role in the spread of SARS-CoV-2 to people.

Next steps:

The IDI is performing sequence analysis of SARS-CoV-2 from deer to answer remaining questions of viral lineage and transmission that will help us to determine the potential of deer to serve as a reservoir for the virus. To be a reservoir, deer must be able to transmit infection to one another.  


  • More information on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 between people and wildlife here >>
  • More information about COVID-19 and animals and recommendations for pet owners and people who work around animals available here >>
  • More information about how and when to test animals here >> and here >>

Back to News