New Hampshire, Vermont asked to test deer for COVID-19

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The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service tested 481 deer in Illinois, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania and found COVID-19 antibodies in 33% of the samples.

A deer in Philadelphia

A deer stands on a hill covered in snow. Matt Rourke / AP

CONCORD, NH (AP) – With the hunting season underway, wildlife agencies in New Hampshire and Vermont have begun testing for COVID-19 in white-tailed deer, as antibodies to the virus have been found in deer in other states, according to a government study.

“We have collected blood samples this year during the five busiest days of the hunting season,” said Dan Bergeron, the deer biologist at the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. “We have biologists at biological control stations and collect age and weight annually. This year we also got them to take blood samples. ”

New Hampshire and Vermont were contacted by US Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service about testing the white-tailed deer population as part of their national research into the spread of COVID-19 among the species.

Maine monitors tests from other states but does not actively test deer for COVID-19. Separately, the state said it detected high levels of PFAS or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in harvested deer in the Fairfield area.

In its study, released in July, the inspection service tested 481 deer in Illinois, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania and found COVID-19 antibodies in 33% of the samples.

“We do not know how the deer were exposed” to the virus, the study said. “It is possible that they were exposed through humans, the environment, other deer or another animal species.”

The study said that based on available information, the risk of deer and other animals spreading COVID-19 to humans is low. It also said there were no reports of clinical disease in the deer populations studied, and that captive deer “experimentally infected” with the virus as part of a USDA Agricultural Research Service study showed no clinical signs of disease.

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