USDA to expand search for coronavirus in animals

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is preparing to increase surveillance for SARS-CoV-2, looking at a wider range of species for incidences of the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans.

The stepped-up surveillance effort is part of a program meant to watch for emerging zoonotic diseases and build an early-warning system to alert public health officials so they can take steps to prevent or limit future pandemics.

The USDA is dedicating $300 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding for the effort, which is being led by it Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

A proposed strategic framework for the effort uses a One Health approach, which takes a broad view of the health of humans, animals and the environment.

“Up to 75% of emerging infectious diseases in humans can also impact the health of animals—we’ve seen this link firsthand with COVID-19,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a press release.

APHIS’ immediate focus will be on expanding SARS-CoV-2 surveillance to a wider range of wild and domesticated animals, increasing diagnostic testing and exploring new animal detections and exposures.

The virus has been known to appear in a variety of species, including mink (Neovison vison) and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus).

A public comment period on the proposed strategic framework closes Oct. 8. Written comments may be submitted to

Read more from the USDA.

Header Image: White-tailed deer have been documented with SARS-CoV-2 in the wild. Now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is casting a broader net for the virus in wild and domesticated animals. Credit: Brett Billings/USFWS