Wild populations should be monitored for COVID mortality

To the Editor: 

Great news: The limited anti-COVID vaccinations are making measurable declines in COVID virus infections throughout much of the United States. More people are being immunized each day, decreasing the healthy habitat available to the COVID-19 virus.

We need to decrease exposure to the COVID-19 virus in order to give the vaccination a chance to do its job. For the next couple of months, we should keep travel at a minimum, wash our hands frequently, and maintain personal space from others. Give your vaccinations time for you to develop the antibodies against the covid virus.

The Biden administration is making great progress in controlling COVID-19. We Americans all need to cooperate in this international control of a pandemic viral disease.

I recognize how hard it is to cut out on crowded spring-break activities on warm sunny beaches. After all, I once was young and participated in spring break so I know I’m asking a lot.

Why would one at the height of health, in the beautiful spring weather not be very active? Well, because it will cut down on transmission of the virus and will bring it more quickly under control. It will save lives that would have otherwise been taken by the COVID virus.

Some of our elders might still be here because of such cutbacks. The grandparents and parents that are saved might very well be one of yours. We are about to enter a time where we are going to get a lot of control from the vaccine and our days will be much more normal.

You are going to hear about strains of the virus from other parts of the world, and we can keep up with those using proven scientific techniques. We are well on our way to reducing the threat of COVID-19 to a negligible level. 

I think that my boyhood hero, Louis Pasteur, would be pleased, but not surprised, by the success of the anti-COVID vaccine. In this country, we have the Pfizer, Moderna, and now the Johnson & Johnson vaccines approved. Soon we will have an approved vaccine for children and that will make the opening of schools, including sports programs, easier.

Other countries such as Russia, the United Kingdom, China, Japan, and a number of others have their own government-approved vaccines. The virus can be controlled by international teamwork, use of the best approved vaccines, and pharmacological cooperation on production of sufficient vaccine doses to vaccinate all of the people on the planet.

If I were still the state wildlife pathologist, I’d be looking for COVID-19 virus in wildlife within the state. There is a lack of data on what species the virus originated in and what species the virus can be transmitted to.

I particularly fear what COVID-19 can do to wild populations of chimpanzees, gorillas, and primates of South America. There are some findings of the virus in zoos being transmitted to species such as tigers, mink, and gorillas but it is probable that the virus is more widespread in nature than we know.

Monitoring the wild populations for unusual mortality by COVID-19 is very important. It is possible that this virus will turn out to be an important mortality factor for one or more wildlife species in the world. I hope that is not the case, but we won’t know until we do the scientific research. 

Dr. Ward Stone


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