Experts Offer Hunters Tips on Avoiding Disease in the Field

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AUSTIN – With archery season for deer already under way, and the rifle season in the North and South zones only three weeks away, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is cautioning hunters to be careful in handling the game they harvest.

It is not common, but some diseases can spread from wildlife to humans. One such disease is anthrax, which is caused by naturally occurring bacteria found in soil. Animals can come down with the disease by swallowing anthrax spores while grazing. Humans, in turn, can contract the disease through touching infected animals, either alive or dead, or consuming their meat.

Other conditions, including tularemia, brucellosis and rabies also can be transmitted to people through direct contact with live animals or while field dressing harvested game. In addition, insects and ticks can transmit West Nile virus, Lyme disease, plague and other diseases.

Fortunately for hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts, safety methods are easy. Using insect repellent and wearing long sleeves and long pants is the simple way to prevent illnesses that can be passed to humans by mosquitos and ticks.

Health professionals also advise wearing gloves while cleaning game or when cutting and packaging meat. And be sure to wash your hands when you are finished.

The Texas Department of State Health Services recommends the following precautions:

  • Do not harvest animals that appear ill or are acting abnormally.
  • Wear latex-type gloves when dressing game.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling game. If soap is not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a good alternative.
  • Consider eye protection when dressing game to prevent contact between fluids or tissues and eyes. Shooting glasses provide an adequate level of protection in most cases.
  • Avoid eating, drinking, using tobacco, or rubbing eyes while dressing game.
  • Do not touch non-hunter-killed dead animals or their remains, including antlers, bones and hides.
  • Use an approved insect repellent and follow the instructions on the label. EPA-approved repellents include those containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and oil of lemon eucalyptus/p-Menthane-3,8-diol.
  • Stay on trails and avoid areas of overgrown brush and tall grasses.
  • Wear protective clothing such as a hat, long-sleeved shirt and long pants tucked into boots or socks, and check frequently for ticks.

Additional disease information for hunters and other outdoors enthusiasts is available at