“The fact that gorillas are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 should come as no surprise,” says disease ecologist Tony Goldberg of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “Fortunately, gorillas at zoos have excellent medical care, and most will likely pull through due to the efforts of dedicated veterinarians. That’s not the case for gorillas in the wild, though.”
Thomas Friedrich, professor of virology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says a new, more transmissible variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 could have big implications for the pandemic in the U.S. if its starts spreading widely in the country.
“It’s difficult to test specifically for this variant,” said Dr. Thomas Friedrich, professor of virology at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Veterinary Medicine, adding, “Other variants of the virus can cause the same signature.”
“It’s a top priority in human and veterinary diagnostic labs,” Keith Poulsen, director of the Wisconsin veterinary lab, said. One of about a dozen such labs nationwide, the WVDL has been running COVID tests on farmed mink and people, in addition to its usual tests on cows, chickens, and other animals, and is now operating from 5 A.M. to 2 A.M.
Since early this summer, Keith Poulsen, the director of the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, was worried about mink. Poulsen’s lab is part of a national network of veterinary labs that work on animal diseases, and they had “been watching COVID-19 very carefully,” Poulsen told me.
This fall, researchers in Utah began surveying wildlife populations after a breakout of the COVID-19 SARS-2 virus in domestic mink farms. They found one wild mink who had contracted the virus, apparently from contact with farmed mink. Interspecies infection has been a hallmark of the SARS-2 Cov2 virus from the start. Nevertheless, the new finding raises questions about what impact the pandemic might have on wildlife populations. Tony Goldberg is a Professor of Pathobiological Sciences at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine and Associate Director for Research at the UW Global Health Institute.
When Tony Goldberg received an exuberant, enigmatic text message — “You gotta come into the lab!” — the epidemiologist turned his car around and headed straight back to his office at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He found his postdoc, Sam Sibley, transfixed by the computer monitor. Sibley had just finished running blood serum from a long-dead Bald Eagle through a powerful machine that searches out all traces of genetic material. Comparing the results to a database of all the world’s known viruses, the computer had spit back a surprising match.
“Finding a virus in a wild mink but not in other wildlife nearby likely indicates an isolated event, but we should take all such information seriously,” said Tony L. Goldberg of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. He added, “Controlling viruses in people is ultimately the best way to keep them from spreading to animals.”
The point of the vaccine is to protect people from sickness and death, not from infection, according to Marulasiddappa Suresh, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of immunology in the Department of Pathobiological Sciences. "All COVID-19 vaccines are expected to protect against severe disease and NOT PREVENT INFECTION," Suresh wrote in an email. "Vaccinated people can be infected by SARS-CoV-2. This is the reason why even vaccinated people are urged to wear a mask."
Thanks to vaccination, tetanus is rare among America’s horses, but it does occur. “I wish there were zero cases,” says Simon Peek, BVSc, MRCVS, PhD, DACVIM, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “It’s such a horrible disease that we’d prefer to never see it again. Yet we continue to have sporadic cases, and it’s always tragic when we do.”