Can an infected deer transmit COVID to humans? Should people get tested before Thanksgiving gatherings?

Dr. Frank McGeorge answers COVID questions

Viewers are worried about breakthrough cases.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Dr. Frank McGeorge has been keeping viewers up-to-date and informed on all fronts. He’s been answering your questions about the vaccine, the vaccination process and more.

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What are your recommendations for hosting family for Thanksgiving? All our guests are are vaccinated. We have senior citizens that will be present. I worry about breakthrough cases. Should we wear masks and/or have people get tested before attending?

It’s great that everyone will be vaccinated for your Thanksgiving. Your concern about breakthroughs is completely valid. To minimize the risk, the CDC does recommend a rapid test before a multi-household gathering. If there are any guests, especially at high risk, masking is a good idea. As is improving ventilation by opening windows and social distancing when possible.

I read a study today about how white-tailed deer are testing positive for COVID antibodies and that north 30% of the deer herd is positive. My question is, considering all of the body fluids (from the deer) that a hunter comes in contact with during the processing of the animal, how much risk is there of contracting COVID during this process? I am assuming there would be minimal risk coming into contact with the processed meat?

This is a really interesting topic. First, let me say there is no risk of contracting COVID from processed deer meat. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is spread primarily by respiratory secretions and these would not be found in processed meat.

That said, there is a theoretical risk of becoming infected if a person was handling the lungs or other airway structures in an actively infected deer. The real issue is we have absolutely no idea how infectious deer are to people, if at all.

While we believe at this time the risk is low, taking precautions, like wearing a mask when handling the respiratory secretions from the deer is sensible. The bigger concern is that everytime the SARS-CoV-2 virus infects a new animal species, there is additional risk of more dangerous mutations emerging.

What is vital records review? Are they from the same time period as the regular stats?

State health officials routinely review death records to identify cases related to COVID-19 that were not previously reported through other channels. COVID deaths identified through this review process may have occurred prior to the day of reporting, but most likely within the past 30 days.

Read: Complete Michigan COVID coverage

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About the Authors:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.