Can a hunter (or anyone nearby, for that matter) contract COVID 19 from a just shot deer? As outrageous as it sounds, some doctors and scientists believe it's a possibility.

Deer Test Positive for COVID in the Midwest

Louisiana scientists plan to start testing whitetail deer for COVID-19 after a number of those animals tested positive for the virus in Iowa and Ohio. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Program Manager Jonathan Bordelon recently told Louisiana Radio Network that “while testing for other diseases they decided to also look for SARS-CoV2 and what they found was actually surprising. They found antibodies for the virus within those samples.”

Bordelon says that LDWF researchers are teaming up with USDA Wildlife Services to collect blood from whitetail deer harvested by hunters for COVID 19 testing. Bordelon adds that it’s not known for sure at this point if deer can transmit the virus to humans.

getty images
getty images

Is This State Overreacting?

But some states, Wisconsin in particular, are so worried about the possibility that the states Department of Health Services is advising hunters to wear a mask when field dressing a deer.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that due to findings of COVID cases in deer, Wisconsin health officials are suggesting the following:

"Hunters are always encouraged to use good hygiene practices when processing animals to reduce their risk of exposure to many possible disease agents. Incorporating a few additional measures can also help to reduce their risk of possible exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus."

Amazingly, the Journal Sentinel adds "that studies released earlier this month documented the virus in whitetails in Iowa (33% of deer tested) and Ohio (36%)."

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

In fact, Wisconsin officials are so concerned of animal to human transmission, they are not only recommending that hunters wear a mask while field dressing, but limit cutting into and handling the deer's lungs, throat, mouth and nasal cavity and if immunocompromised, ask for assistance with handling and processing the deer.

Louisiana Taking the Conservative Route...for Now

Meanwhile, the LDWF's Bordelon says it comes as no surprise that animals, including deer, can be infected with COVID, but that the larger question is how. “The fact that the deer themselves can be infected is less of a surprise," he tells LRN, "But the route of transmission is still somewhat of an unknown."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphasizes there is also no evidence that COVID-19 can be contracted from preparing and eating game meat.
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