Free-living deer are suggested as a possible source of infection of cattle with bovine virus diarrhea (BVD) virus. To examine this hypothesis blood samples from 476 free-living deer were collected during two different periods and tested for BVD virus and antibody in Denmark. In 1995–96, 207 animals were tested. These included 149 roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), 29 fallow deer (Dama dama), 20 red deer (Cervus elaphus) and one sika deer (Cervus sika). For the remaining eight animals no species information was available. In 1998–99, 269 animals were tested including 212 roe deer and 57 red deer. The animals were selected from areas with a relatively high prevalence of cattle herds with a BVD persistent infection status in 1997 and 1998. All 207 samples from 1995–96 were found antibody-negative except two samples from red deer. Only 158 of the 207 samples were tested for virus and were all found negative. Of the 269 samples from 1998–99 all but one were antibody negative. The positive sample was from a red deer. All samples were virus-negative. It appears that BVD infection does not occur in roe deer in Denmark. The presence of antibody in a few red deer from various districts in Jutland probably results from cattle to deer transmission, rather than spread among deer. Hence, the possibility of free-living deer as a source of infection for cattle in Denmark seems to be remote.
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