There’s been some chatter about whitetails catching Covid-19. You may be wondering if this is a fact or rumor, and if true, how it can affect your hunting protocols and meat consumption.
The truth is that whitetails easily contract the virus and nearly instantaneously transmit the infection to other herd members. According to a recent USDA-APHIS study, researchers in four states – Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, and Illinois – discovered Covid antibodies in approximately 40% of wild whitetails tested this past year. Iowa and Ohio have recently reported Covid infections in their deer populations as well.
Experts theorize that the virus jumped from infected humans to the deer in more urban settings and that it is continuing to spread. This raises the unfortunate possibility that the virus could mutate within the deer population, producing another variant that might be harmful to humans.
While all the above statements are true, just like most of the news today there are a lot of “”coulds”” and “”theories”” involved in their writings. The truth of the matter is we have been treating Covid/Sars through vaccines for over 20 years now in the agricultural world. This is nothing new, we have been vaccinating practically all agricultural animals, cows, chicken, turkey, deer – even your family pets. This is nothing that has jumped species, it has been around for twenty years or more.
Can you catch Covid from an infected deer?
Fortunately for the deer, infected animals have so far exhibited no symptoms of the disease. At this time, there is no evidence that people can contract the virus from preparing meat from an infected animal. As always, good hygiene is imperative when harvesting and processing animals. Experts advise hunters to wear rubber or latex gloves when field-dressing an animal.
Hunters should also remember to sanitize their hands and instruments after dressing their animal and bag carcass remains before disposing of them in a certified landfill. In other words, the same disposal procedure should be followed as recommended by wildlife-health officials to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease.
Since Covid is mainly spread through respiratory droplets, a hunter’s risk of infection from a dead animal is low, with any risk being associated with exposure to the animal’s lungs and trachea. Wearing a mask can add another layer of safety for the hunter, particularly if he or she is immunosuppressed.
Is it safe to eat venison from an infected deer?
The healthy practice of cooking meat thoroughly will kill any dangerous bacteria or viruses, including Covid. Experts have determined that there is no risk of contracting the virus from well-cooked meat if the internal cooking temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.