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New data shows traces of COVID-19 found in wild deer

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BATON ROUGE - Potentially troubling news for the hunting community has surfaced in recent months. The RNA specific to COVID-19 has been found in blood samples in wild deer in northern states in the U.S.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is now doing its own research with the USDA. They are taking samples from wild deer in different regions across the state.

"We’ve been collecting blood from hunter-harvested deer this fall, and we’ve been sending those samples to USDA wildlife services for analysis and submission to the lab," deer program manager for LDWF, Johnathan Bordelon, said.

Traces of the virus were first found in states like Michigan, Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania. Experts say Louisiana is likely to follow suit.

"Those results are still pending, but based on other states, we would expect to likely find some presence of COVID in deer here in Louisiana,” Bordelon said.

The presence of COVID-19 does not indicate an active infection, just that the deer were at one point exposed to the virus. Experts say it poses no threat to the deer population as a whole.

“In the case of deer, it’s just something they can contract but does not appear to cause any ill effects in that species," said Bordelon.

Experts also added it's too early to tell if humans should worry about being infected while hunting or cleaning wild deer.

To be safe, Bordelon recommends the usual protocol for handling game, which includes gloves and hand washing.

“Hunters, in general, should already wash their hands. They should wear protective gloves when processing or dressing any wildlife, not specific to COVID-19, but for any transmissible disease that can be transmitted from wildlife to people. So we recommend those same practices be utilized when handling deer."

As for the test results, it is unknown when they will be available.

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