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This state has seen COVID-19 spread to deer. This could lead to a ‘dangerous’ mutation, experts say

Researchers found COVID-19 isn’t staying in humans. It might be hitting other populations

SHARE This state has seen COVID-19 spread to deer. This could lead to a ‘dangerous’ mutation, experts say
A young red deer stag in Bushy Park, south west London.

A young red deer stag stands in bracken during the rutting (breeding) season which takes place during autumn, in Bushy Park, south west London, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. The novel coronavirus has spread rapidly to Iowa’s deer population in recent weeks, raising concern from experts about what this means for the animal population.

Matt Dunham, Associated Press

The novel coronavirus has spread rapidly to Iowa’s deer population in recent weeks, raising concern from experts about what this means for the animal population.

Researchers at Iowa State University found about 80% of deer in a sample tested positive for COVID-19, per KCCI-TV. They originally noticed COVID-19 antibodies in deer, which led them to do more research.

Tyler Harms, with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, told KCCI-TV that it’s unlikely that COVID-19 can pass from the deer to humans so there isn’t much to worry about.

  • In fact, Harms said it’s safe for hunters — who are kicking off deer hunting season — to harvest and eat deer that might have COVID-19.
  • “There shouldn’t be any risk of contracting the virus from consuming meat that’s infected as long as it’s cooked to an appropriate temperature,” Harms said.
  • However, hunters may want to take extra precaution by wearing masks and gloves.

But other experts remain less sure about what this means for the human population. Per Business Insider, allowing the coronavirus to pass through animal populations would leave the virus unchecked. This could lead to a dangerous mutation in the virus that would then come back to the human population.

Tony Goldberg, a veterinarian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told The New York Times that it would be “very rare and unlucky” if COVID-19 passes between deer and humans.

  • But, he said, it would be a “game changer.”