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Hunters should stick to normal dressing protocol even with COVID-19 in deer, expert says

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Firearm deer season starts Nov. 15, and an orange-clad battalion of hunters are in the search of the elusive white tailed deer. But new studies have shown rapid transmission of COVID-19 in white tailed deer.

In a recent study, up to 82% of the deer sample contracted COVID-19 which was "pretty striking," said Thomas Gehring, professor of wildlife biology at Central Michigan University.

Hunters who follow normal health guidelines for dressing their deer should be safe this season. However, the issue experts are warning about is the chance of the virus spilling over into livestock.

Gehring said possible spillover is a facet of the “one health” theory.

It suggests humans and wildlife are interconnected, and if one isn’t healthy, then the other won’t be.

“Something like COVID can form like a reservoir in a population like white tailed deer and have a chance to spill back into other animals systems, maybe livestock, into human populations," Gehring said.

Gehring said COVID-19 in cattle could have a similar economic effect to bovine tuberculosis, which can cause a drop in milk and meat production.