Lyme Disease in Deer

Deer often are implicated in the spread of Lyme disease. One of the tick species that harbors and spreads the disease is called the "deer tick" in some regions. However, there has never been a documented case of a human contracting Lyme disease through the handling or consumption of venison. The disease actually is caused by bacteria and is spread through certain species of ticks. Deer, other wildlife and domestic animals often are hosts for the ticks that carry Lyme disease and may expand its range.

Deer can become infected with Lyme disease, but they do not carry large numbers of the bacteria. The disease isn't passed from one deer to another or to humans. Deer may have large numbers of ticks and other parasites, and certain deer-handling precautions will minimize your exposure to them.

  • Hang a deer carcass for a day or two to let many of the ticks drop off. Refrigeration may discourage ticks from dropping.
  • Wear latex gloves while dressing and processing deer. Gloves prevent any possible disease transmission through open cuts or abrasions. Wearing gloves is strictly precautionary because there are no documented cases of people acquiring diseases or parasites from dressing deer.
  • Treat clothing with Permanone or a similar tick spray to prevent most ticks from biting. Take a shower after being in the woods, and check your body closely.
  • Cook meat thoroughly. Although there is no evidence to suggest that deer diseases or parasites can be transmitted through venison, thoroughly cooking meat will ensure this.

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