OKLAHOMA (KFOR) — An Oklahoma State University Extension wildlife specialist is allaying fears about eating venison ahead of deer hunting season after some white-tailed deer tested positive for COVID-19.
“There’s really no reason for a hunter to worry about eating meat from an infected white-tailed deer,” says Dr. Dwayne Elmore, an OSU Extension wildlife specialist.
Recently, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation said COVID-19 was spotted during a herd health survey.
“We’re taking deer, different samples, and testing them for a lot of different diseases. In 2020 and 2021, some of them came back positive for COVID-19,” Micah Holmes said with the department.
With just a week to go before deer hunting season, some are concerned about eating spoiled meat and catching the virus.
“Eating meat from an infected animal poses little to no risk. The virus is neutralized by cooking and stomach acid is going to kill it anyway,” the doctor said. “COVID is a respiratory disease, so it’s transmitted by breathing in the same room as an animal, or you could touch respiratory droplets and then touch your face.”
But processing the meat may be a different animal. dr. Elmore suggests that you take precautions while slaughtering.
“You should always wear gloves and throw those gloves away when you’re done handling the animal,” said Dr. Elmore. “Maybe wear a mask in case droplets are floating in the air. That’s not just because of COVID, but there are other potential diseases that they can come in contact with.”
At this point, scientists don’t know how many Oklahoma deer have COVID-19 or how they got it. It could have belonged to a human or another animal.
“It’s probably similar in deer than in humans, direct contact. Nose to nose or breathing in the same room,” he said. “At least we know that the strains detected in deer match those in humans.”
“If anyone is concerned about this, just follow the CDC’s guidelines and get vaccinated.”
KFOR News called several meat processing facilities. Many said they had never heard of COVID-19 in deer and were not too concerned about contracting the virus from processing the animal.
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