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COVID-19 found in white-tailed deer



By Pete Warner, Bangor Daily News Staff COVID-19 has been detected in white-tailed deer. A study of blood samples from 481 wild deer in four states found that 33% contained antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, the U.

By Pete Warner, Bangor Daily News Staff

COVID-19 has been detected in white-tailed deer.

A study of blood samples from 481 wild deer in four states found that 33% contained antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, the US Department of Agriculture recently reported.

In samples taken from March 2020 to March 2021, deer from Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan and Illinois showed exposure to the disease. The highest incidence (67 percent) was found in Michigan.

Although the USDA has said it’s likely deer in other states have also been exposed to the virus, the find is not being actively investigated by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Local biologists are more concerned about a deadly disease found in deer and advise hunters to follow safety recommendations when treating deer to limit exposure to possible diseases.

“We are not directly involved in any research related directly to deer and COVID,” said DIF & W deer biologist Nathan Bieber, “so I don’t really know if Maine deer have been exposed and have developed antibodies like some other studies have found. “

What the USDA study findings mean is unclear.

“There is no evidence that animals, including deer, play a significant role in the spread of SARS-CoV-2 to humans,” the USDA said. “Based on the information available, the risk of animals transmitting COVID-19 to humans is low. “

Maine does not intend to test deer for COVID-19 antibodies, Bieber said, given the limited scope of the USDA study and the lack of detailed information available on the potential issues arising from it. results.

It is not known how the wild deer were exposed to the coronavirus and the USDA report said none of the animals appeared to be affected.

“It doesn’t appear at this time that deer that have had COVID or COVID antibodies are in fact showing symptoms of the disease,” Bieber said.

Captive deer experimentally infected with SARS-CoV-2 in a USDA Agricultural Research Service study also did not show clinical signs of disease.

The USDA Animal and Plant Protection Service conducted the study to examine the susceptibility of deer to SARS-CoV-2 and to determine if they could serve as reservoirs for the virus. Researchers say this could create the potential for the virus to mutate and spread to other animals and humans.

It is not known if there is a possibility of transmission of COVID-19 from deer to humans. People are usually infected by the spread of respiratory droplets and the virus was not found in muscle tissue (meat) that could be eaten by deer hunters.

The USDA plans to do more testing to determine how deer were exposed to the virus and if there is a threat to these populations, other wildlife, or people.

The Missouri Department of Conservation will collect deer samples this fall in conjunction with USDA’s efforts to expand its testing, according to the Springfield News-Leader.

In the meantime, Maine biologists will keep a watchful eye on local deer.

“Right now it’s kind of very early in the type of research that’s going on and it’s more academic in nature,” Bieber said. “There doesn’t seem to be a lot of management implications at the moment, but if that changes we may need to re-evaluate what we’re doing. “

Of greater concern is the protection of Maine deer from the onset of chronic wasting disease.

Fatal brain disease, similar to mad cow disease in cattle, is found in white-tailed deer, moose, mule deer, caribou and elk. It kills populations in 25 states and two Canadian provinces, and has been found as near as Pennsylvania and New York.

Chronic wasting disease is not known to be transmitted to humans, but can survive outside of a living host for many years. It has a 100 percent death rate in deer.

“We don’t have chronic wasting disease here or anywhere nearby, but we would really like it to be,” Bieber said.

Bieber said the DIF & W’s safety recommendations for dressing wild game and processing meat can go a long way in limiting people’s exposure to unwanted diseases or germs that could be spread by deer and others. animals.

“Ideally, people wear gloves when treating their deer and have clean tools and don’t play with some of the high-risk materials like the brain and spinal cord,” Bieber said. “Who doesn’t have gloves these days? You might as well use them.

USDA recommendations for handling live game include not allowing contact between wildlife and pets, including dogs. Hunters should also not harvest animals that appear sick or have been found dead.

Meat should be kept clean and cooled quickly, while efforts should be made to avoid cutting tissue in the spine and spine. The brains must not be eaten.

Knives, processing equipment and surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected, and hands should be washed thoroughly with soap and water.



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