Can you catch COVID-19 from deer?

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (WATER) – Even wild deer are not safe from the spread of COVID, say wildlife officials, but can hunters or others who come into contact with an infected animal catch the virus?

A recent study by Penn State found that over 80% White-tailed deer sampled in different parts of Iowa between December 2020 and January 2021 tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, or better known as COVID-19. Researchers urged hunters to be cautious as they suggest white-tailed deer could be a reservoir for the coronavirus.

Although data has shown that more than 80% of deer slaughtered have tested positive for COVID-19, officials of the Tennessee Wildlife Agency, and Dr Marcy Souza of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee, said there was no evidence to show that deer transmit the virus to humans.

“So I think the studies that have been published have actually raised more questions than they have answered. You know, at this point there is really no evidence that hunters can catch Sars-CoV-2 by handling an animal that they hunted, ”Souza said.

The risk of deer transmitting COVID-19 to humans is low since it is a respiratory disease and transmission occurs through inhalation of respiratory droplets. Currently, there is no evidence that people can contract COVID-19 from preparing or eating meat from an animal infected with SARS-CoV-2, including meat from wild game hunted in the States. -United.

TWRA headquarters officials

Souza, director of veterinary public health at UTK, said this was the second study where deer were found at have COVID-19 in their systems. The first was from the USDA in August. This study found COVID-19 antibodies in deer from four different states, including Illinois, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania.

Souza said Penn State’s research was different. He showed that the deer were actively infected during testing.

“So they looked at the lymph nodes of deer that had been harvested by hunters and found that a fairly large percentage of them were PCR positive, which shows that they actually contained the virus, as opposed to the antibodies that show they’ve been exposed at some point, ”Souza said.

Souza said there are many viruses and bacteria that can be transferred from deer or other game to humans, but at this time, there is no evidence that COVID-19 is one of them.

However, Souza and TWRA officials said hunters should always take the following precautions due to non-COVID diseases they might catch while hunting deer.

“[Make] Make sure you take good protective measures to prevent yourself from being exposed to anything, not just SARS-CoV-2, ”Souza said. “Maybe that includes wearing gloves when dressing an animal. Washing your hands afterwards, not eating, drinking or smoking while dressing the animal is really important.

Terry Lewis, an avid hunter for 45 years, said he’s not worried about catching COVID-19 from deer. He took every precaution possible when dressing the deer before he even knew the deer could have the virus.

“You know, we try to take as much precaution as we do whether COVID is a problem or not, we always wear rubber gloves, we wash our hands, wash our tools when we harvest an animal,” Lewis said.

Souza said wearing a mask wouldn’t hurt, because sometimes when dressing an animal, bodily fluids could evaporate into the air. But, propagation in this way is low risk when harvesting outdoors.

Because the hunt takes place outside, Lewis said he did not plan to wear a mask.

“Wearing a mask in the woods is not really appropriate in my opinion. You are in the great outdoors, you are outdoors. There’s no one else around, ”Lewis said.

Souza said hunters need to take other precautions, like keeping deer meat cold to prevent bacteria growth and cooking them at the correct temperature to kill any other bacteria.

Here are some other tips for hunters:

  • Do not allow contact between wildlife and pets, including pets and hunting dogs.
  • Do not harvest animals that appear sick or have been found dead.
  • Keep game meat clean and cool it as soon as possible after harvesting the animal.
  • Avoid cutting spine and spinal tissue, and do not eat the brains of wild animals.
  • When handling and cleaning game:
    • Wear rubber or disposable gloves.
    • Do not eat, drink or smoke.
    • Wear a face cover / mask.
  • Once the handling and cleaning game is finished:
    • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water
    • Clean knives, equipment and surfaces that have come in contact with game meat with soap and water, then disinfect them.
      • Thoroughly cook all game meat (to an internal temperature of 165 ° F or higher).


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Joseph D. Whitman