‘We really don’t know how they got it’: Some Oklahoma deer have coronavirus antibodies – Oklahoman.com

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A few Oklahoma deer have recently tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, a state wildlife official said Friday.

"We really don't know howthey got it," said Dallas Barber, big game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "A small percentage (of blood tests) did come back positive just for antibodies, meaning they were exposed at some point intime."

But wildlife experts say there is such a low risk of humans catching the coronavirus from a deerthat there is no reason for alarm.

"It's an exceedingly low likelihood that would be a transmission route," said Dwayne Elmore, OSU Extension wildlife specialist.

Elmore has received dozens of inquiries on the topic since NPR published a story Wednesday about the coronavirus being widely spread through deer populations in the United States.

A recent survey of white-tailed deer in the Northeast and Midwestfoundthat 40% of them had antibodies against the coronavirus, according to the NPR report.

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Elmore said there is no evidence that deer cantransmit the coronavirus to humans.

"The strains that have been detected in deer matchhumans, which indicatesthat it does appear it went from humans to deer,but that doesn't necessarily mean it will go back the other way, but we can't rule thatout," Elmore said.

Even if a deer could transmit the coronavirus to a human, it is much more likely that a person would catch the virus fromclose contact with another person, rather than from a deer walking through aneighborhood, he said.

Oklahoma's most popular hunting season, the deer gun season,opensNov. 20. Both Barber and Elmore recommend hunters take the same precautions when handling a deer carcass they would normally, such as wearing gloves.

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"Wear gloves, don't touch your face, and throw the gloves away," Elmore said.

Wearing gloves always has been a standard health precaution suggested for hunters who are field dressing a deer, even before the coronavirus.

Because the coronavirus triggers a respiratory tract infection, catching it from adeer which is not breathing is highly unlikely, Elmore said.

"The small chance, the way you might could get it from a harvested deer, is if you put your hand in the respiratory tract or on their mouth and then touched your mouth," he said. "Don't ever do that."

Wearing a mask would provide an extra level of precaution for a hunter, he said.

"You could wear a mask while you are handlinga deer, but without the deer respiring there is not likely to be even small droplets circulating," Elmore said.

Elmore said he wasn't surprised to learn the coronavirus has now beenfound in Oklahoma deer because of the high rate of infection in other states.

The fact it is now widespread in deer herds across the country is just more evidence thatthe coronavirus probably willnever be eradicated, he said.

"It's going to gofrom an epidemic, which we have now, to an endemic disease, meaning it's always with us," Elmore said. "However, most epidemiologistshave already said we were there.

"They didn't think we were evergetting rid of this. It's already in cats and dogs and ferrets andprimates and, of course, humans all over the world.

"I think for a long time most disease specialists were leaning toward 'we are going to be stuck with this thing.'Adding it to deer just increases the likelihood of that being the case."

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'We really don't know how they got it': Some Oklahoma deer have coronavirus antibodies - Oklahoman.com

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