Iowa study: 82.5% of deer tested positive for COVID-19

When researchers in Iowa first began testing deer for COVID-19 in April of 2020, they didn’t find any signs of the virus for months. That changed in the fall when the first positives popped up in September and October.

Then in a seven-week period from just before Thanksgiving until January 10, 82.5% of the deer tested positive, signs that it was spreading rapidly among white-tailed deer.

The research by Penn State and the Iowa DNR is still in peer review, but they write it’s the first to show evidence of widespread dissemination of COVID-19 in wildlife and that it shows that deer have the potential to be a "major reservoir host" for the virus.

The threat for deer hunters is minimal. There is no evidence, yet, that COVID-19 can transmit from deer to humans. Also if deer meat is properly prepared and cooked, there’s no risk consuming venison.

But as we work through vaccinations to stop the spread in humans, the concerns and questions are the scientific what ifs -- the potential that COVID survives in the wild and continues to mutate. If so, new strains, potentially more resistant to vaccines, could develop that could find a way to jump back to humans again.