NEW YORK — When New York City’s COVID-19 rates spiked last December due to the emerging omicron variant, humans weren’t the only mammals affected.
The highly infectious variant also hit the white-tailed deer population on Staten Island, the most suburban of the city’s five boroughs, according to a study led by Penn State University scientists
The omicron variant was detected in nasal swabs from seven of 68 Staten Island deer tested between Dec. 13 and Jan. 31, according to the study, which was funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
It was already known that deer can catch COVID-19, after earlier variants were found in white-tailed deer in New York and several other states. But the Staten Island study is the first to find evidence of the omicron variant in deer or any wild animal population, Suresh Kuchipudi, a professor of virology at Penn State who led the research team, said Tuesday.