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Game Commission: No evidence deer can spread COVID-19 to humans

Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Game Commission responded to recent reports about the connection between COVID-19 and deer, pointing out there’s no evidence deer can spread the virus to humans or that humans are at risk of contracting the virus from consuming venison.

As always, however, hunters heading afield in the 2021-22 hunting seasons should take usual precautions when handling their harvests.

“COVID-19 has affected all of us, and it’s not surprising the recent research that shows deer can develop COVID antibodies has generated interest,” said Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “But at the same time, there’s nothing to suggest deer hunters or other Pennsylvanians are at risk of contracting COVID from exposure to deer. By taking ordinary precautions when hunting and handling deer, hunters help to reduce any disease risk.”

There always are risks associated with handling wildlife. Generally, the Game Commission recommends people avoid approaching or coming into contact with wildlife. Hunters and trappers also are advised to follow these simple safety guidelines:

 

    • Do not harvest or attempt to harvest any wildlife that appears sick.
    • Keep game meat clean and cool it down as soon after harvest as possible.
    • Avoid the backbone and spinal tissue while field dressing and do not consume brain tissue.
    • Wear rubber or disposable gloves and do not eat, drink, or smoke while handing and dressing game.
    • Always wash your hands and equipment thoroughly after handling and dressing game. Following cleaning with soap and water, further disinfection of equipment can be done by applying a 10% household bleach solution and allowing 10 minutes of contact time. Equipment can then be rinsed with clean water and allowed to air dry.
    • Cook all game meat to the appropriate internal temperature as outlined by food safety officials.
    • Do not consume raw game meat or blood of wild animals.

 

These longstanding safety recommendations have worked for years to help keep hunters safe. And with Pennsylvania’s first deer seasons set to begin Sept. 18, hunters soon will be employing them again.

Recent reports about the connection between deer and COVID-19 stem from recent research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The research demonstrated that wild white-tailed deer in Pennsylvania and three other states tested positive for the antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, meaning that at some point over the past year, these deer were exposed to the COVID-19 virus and formed antibodies as an immune response. But there’s no evidence deer can spread the virus to humans.