NMSU researcher says COVID-19 could potentially be transmitted to wildlife

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LAS CRUCES, NM (KTSM) – Some of the world’s most notorious pandemics can be traced to wildlife and human transmission.

Some experts believe COVID-19 was transmitted from wildlife to humans. NMSU Researcher Katherine Young is looking at the reverse, on whether or not the virus could be transmitted from humans back to wildlife.

Over the years, Young’s focus has been on mosquitoes. However, she says with COVID-19 people shouldn’t be worried about mosquitoes.

Courtesy of Katherine Young

“My understanding is that it would be very unlikely that this virus would be able to be transmitted through any kind of biting insect,” said Katherine Young an NMSU Post-Doctoral Fellow.

While there have been reports of animals contracting the COVID-19, Young says there is not enough evidence yet to determine if this could become a problem.

“I don’t think we can say for sure as of right now if whether or not it’s going to jump to a dog or a cat,” said Young.

Young says right now she is focusing on whether or not COVID-19 could be transmitted from humans to bats.

“Whether or not it could jump to a new wildlife reservoir here in it’s new region that it’s expanded in,” said Young.

She says it’s believed COVID-19 came from bats. Making them a good example to use of how the virus could be transmitted from wildlife, to humans back to wildlife.

“We’ve now seen it move into humans and if we see it spill back into North American bats, for instance, it will be incredibly difficult to gain control of this virus and transmission in the future,” said Young.

Young uses yellow fever as an example. She says it started in monkeys and then was transmitted to humans and then back to monkeys. Adding that even with a vaccine yellow fever is still a problem.

However, she says for that to happen a person with the virus would have to come in contact with bats for example.

There’s a potential, and that potential is probably driven by people who are working and handling bats”, said Young.

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