MICHIGAN (NBC 26) -- A new study by the USDA has found that white-tailed deer populations have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus. The federal study found that 33 percent of almost 500 deer tested in Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, and Michigan had COVID antibodies within their system. Interestingly, about 67 percent of the 113 deer samples in Michigan tested, had COVID antibodies present; the highest rate of any state's deer populations being tested in the study.
The USDA has indicated they are not sure how deer could have been infected with the virus. Researchers say it is possible that deer were exposed to COVID-19 through humans, the environment, other deer, or possibly other wildlife.
Researchers say further testing is needed to truly determine the significance of the antibodies being present in white-tailed deer populations. Future studies, according to the USDA, would help them determine any potential impacts the virus could have, if any, on overall deer populations, wildlife, and people.
At this point, the USDA points out that there is no evidence that animals, including deer, are playing a significant role in the spread of the virus to humans. Additionally, the USDA says there is no evidence that people can get COVID-19 by preparing or eating meat from an animal that was infected with the virus.