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Pennsylvania Game Commission announces new rules surrounding Chronic Wasting Disease

A new study suggests that the white-tailed deer, pictured above, could carry SARS-CoV-2 indefinitely and spread it back to humans periodically.

With deer hunting season underway, the Pennsylvania Game Commission is announcing new regulations to slow the spread of a disease that’s deadly to deer.

Chronic Wasting Disease first showed up in Pennsylvania in 2012. Since then, more than a thousand deer across the state have tested positive. That’s according to Andrea Korman, a Chronic Wasting Disease section supervisor with the game commission.

Korman said infected deer get holes in their brains, which leads to their death.

“People are starting to see a lot more sick deer around. And so we need to do everything we can in these outer areas. It is becoming a very serious issue," Korman said.

Following new regulations, hunters in regions with Chronic Wasting Disease now have to be more careful how they deal with the deer they kill, or they could face fines.

Korman said hunters can either take their deer to an approved location for meat processing, process it at home and put carcasses in garbage bags, or process it where they kill it.

“So you would basically just be taking the meat out in order to take it home, and then those parts would probably be staying at the harvest location," Korman said.

She said testing is especially important if hunters plan to eat meat from that deer.

So far, Korman said there isn’t direct evidence of people getting Chronic Wasting Disease. But she says there is evidence of people getting Mad Cow Disease, which is the same type of disease.

“So we use extreme caution. And if somebody asks for our guidance and the CDC guidance is that you do not consume meat from a CWD positive animal," Korman said.

When processing deer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing gloves and minimizing how much you touch areas with a high risk of disease, like the brain and spinal cord.

Blair and Huntingdon counties are among the top five most contaminated areas for Chronic Wasting Disease in the state, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

To find an approved processor, go to pgc.pa.gov. Hunters can also drop off deer heads for testing in one of the game commission’s collection bins. Locations for those are also listed on the commission’s website.