Hello Wild Side Readers,
Have you seen headlines in the news lately about deer with COVID-19? Some of these headlines are a bit misleading. Check out the below information on what is really going on.
SARS-CoV-2 and Deer
In a late August press release, the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory announced confirmation of the virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) in wild wild-tailed deer in Ohio. Earlier studies have shown that deer can be experimentally infected with the virus, and that wild deer (from samples in IL, MI, NY, and PA) had antibodies to the virus.
- The deer tested were positive for the virus (SARS-CoV-2) but were not diagnosed with the illness (COVID-19). Some headlines you may see (including the above press release) are misleading! Currently, it appears that deer are asymptomatic carriers of the virus.
- According to the Ohio Department of Health, there is no evidence that animals, including deer, play a significant role in the spread of SARS-CoV-2 to people.
- Based on the available information, the risk of animals spreading SARS-CoV-2 to people is low.
- Currently, it is unknown how the deer contracted the virus, though typically the route of infection is from human to animals.
- Infections have been reported in a small number of other wildlife species, mostly in animals that had close contact with a person with COVID-19. More info here.
Is hunter-harvested game meat safe to eat?
- According to the Ohio Department of Health, there is no evidence that people can get SARS-CoV-2 by preparing or eating meat from an animal infected with SARS-CoV-2, including wild game meat hunted in the United States.
- Hunters should always practice good hygiene when processing animals.
Additional actions to stop virus transmission:
- To limit deer-to-deer transmission, the Ohio Division of Wildlife continues to urge homeowners and hunters to avoid concentrating deer at backyard feeders or in hunting situations. In addition to SARS-CoV-2, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and bovine tuberculosis (bTB) remain on the list of diseases that could be easily transmitted from deer to deer under these situations. CWD was confirmed in two wild deer in Wyandot County during the 2020-21 deer hunting season (see here for more information on CWD in Ohio’s deer herd). Ohio’s herd remains bTB-free.
- Contact the Ohio Department of Health for questions about the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from white-tailed deer to humans; 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634) or odh.ohio.gov.
- Contact the Ohio Department of Agriculture for questions about the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to pets or livestock; 614-728-6201 or agri.ohio.gov.
- Press release on Deer with Antibodies to SARS-CoV-2
- FAQ on Deer with Antibodies Study – also has food safety recs for hunters processing animals
Thanks for reading!
Wildlife Program Specialist