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Hunters warned after EEE virus found in Mercer County, other areas

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The virus can be fatal to animals and humans

(WKBN) – The Pennsylvania Game Commission is warning hunters about a potentially fatal virus traveling through mosquitoes.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis, also known as EEE, is a virus that is spread through mosquitoes.

Recently, it was found in five Pennsylvania counties, including evidence of it in Mercer County.

The virus can be fatal to animals and humans.

If contracted, a person may experience flu-like symptoms.

So far, there are no human cases reported. However, there were reports that it was found in two wild turkeys in Erie County, a wild deer in Luzerne County, captive pheasants in Monroe County and horses in Carbon County.

Joe Kosack, of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said anyone outdoors, especially hunters, should take precautions.

“If you’re outside you should wear gloves, hats… If you do shoot a deer, wear vinyl or rubber gloves when processing the deer,” Kosack said.

He said it is not common to find this virus in the area. He said it was not something they were actively looking for when it was found in the wildlife, but once contracted, the animals began acting strangely and were then tested.

He said the virus is mainly spread through mosquitoes. However, if a deer is bitten and a hunter kills that deer, there are certain precautions to take in order to avoid the risk of contracting the virus.

“A person is not at risk if a deer is bitten as long as the meat is cooked thoroughly, and as long as you’re properly covered,” he said.

Below are some precautions hunters should take:

  • Wear gloves when field dressing, skinning, and/or processing game.
  • Clean knives thoroughly before and after using them for skinning, dressing and processing, or use different knives for each step, then clean them well afterward. Hand-wash first, then wash them in a dishwasher.
  • Thoroughly wash hands after field dressing, skinning, and processing game.
  • Cook wild game meat thoroughly to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F.

If you feel you may have been exposed to the EEE virus, you should seek medical treatment from your physician.

Kosack did say, with the weather getting cooler, the risk will decrease as mosquitoes begin to fade away.

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