Alaska State Biologists are Screening Wildlife for Covid
Scientists want to make sure a new variant of covid does not emerge in animals and then infect people.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has started testing wildlife for Covid-19. It is part of a partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Scientists want to make sure a new variant does not emerge in animals and then infect people. But Kimberlee Beckmen, a wildlife health veterinarian for Fish and Game, says to KTOO not to worry too much about getting Covid-19 from an animal.
“It’s more a concern of us infecting wildlife and if wildlife could become a reservoir, but that hasn’t been shown yet,” she said.
By “reservoir” she means the risk is that the virus could take hold in an animal population, mutate and then infect humans with a new variant.
Wear gloves, clean knives and do not touch any weird-looking tissue.
In Alaska, biologists are collecting samples from a number of mammals: Moose that live near residential areas, lynx and wolverines, minks and martens. There are plans to test caribou and Sitka black tail deer, as well as seals and belugas in the North Slope Borough.
Alaska will likely tests bears as well, when they come out of hibernation because bears that have been exposed to human garbage are at elevated risk for infection.
Beckmen says the state has submitted over 100 samples for testing but has not gotten many results back yet because an avian influenza outbreak on the East Coast is keeping labs busy.
There is currently no evidence that Covid-19 can be passed by handling or eating meat from wild game. Fish and Game recommends hunters use the same precautions as always: Wear gloves, clean knives and do not touch any weird-looking tissue.