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COVID-19 detected for first time in Ontario wildlife

Samples taken from five free-ranging white-tailed deer in southwestern Ontario have tested positive for COVID-19, marking the first time the virus has been detected in the province’s wildlife.

In an email to CTV News Toronto, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry said the samples were taken in November by way of the ministry’s chronic wasting disease surveillance program.

The samples were confirmed to contain SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease. The exact location of where the deer are located was not made available by the province.

Prior to the discovery, COVID-19 had been reported in animals in northeastern U.S., Quebec, and Saskatchewan, according to the ministry.

At this time, officials say that the affected deer show no clinical signs of illness and appeared healthy and the ministry maintained that the risk of wildlife spreading COVID-19 to humans is low.

“There is currently no evidence that you can get COVID-19 from food, including game meat, however it is always important to cook meat to an internal temperature of 74°C (165°F) to kill any parasites, viruses or bacteria that may be present,” the ministry said in a post to Facebook.

Also, the ministry is advising the public to not work with wildlife if you think you may have COVID-19, avoid unnecessary contact with wildlife, and not feed wildlife because it can spread disease. Top Stories

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