The recent and shocking USDA study that found that 33% of tested wild whitetails were exposed to the COVID-19 virus brings up 2 huge questions as we prepare to hit the woods and shoot deer this season.
One, could you get the virus from a deer you kill and handle? The USDA’s Animal and Health Inspection Service (APHIS) says there is no evidence that any animal, including deer, plays a significant role in the spread of SARS-CoV-2 to people. Based on the available information, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is low. But they do say further research is needed.
Is a deer you kill this fall safe to eat? APHIS says there is no evidence that people can get COVID-19 by preparing or eating meat from an animal infected with SARS-CoV-2 in the United States.
BUT… This deer/COVID study raises more questions than answers, so let me add a few things:
- The study seems to indicate that deer infected with the virus are asymptomatic. But still, do not shoot (and definitely don’t handle or eat) a deer that appears sickly.
- Always wear rubber/plastic gloves when handling and gutting a deer. I recommend gloves that extend all way up to or past your elbows. This would protect you not only from possible COVID, but a myriad of tick and other related illnesses.
- Avoid cutting through the backbone or brain of a deer (CWD and other concerns).
- When finished handling and cleaning a deer, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water and then rub down with a hand sanitizer.
- Clean knives, sharpeners and surfaces that were in contact with game meat with soap and water and then disinfect them.
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water and then rub down with a hand sanitizer again after cleaning tools.
- Government agencies now recommend you cook venison and other game meat to an internal temperature of 165°F or higher.