Five more northwest Kansas deer test positive for CWD

KDWP awaiting lab results on more samples from 2008 deer
season

Five more Kansas white-tailed deer have been confirmed positive
for chronic wasting disease (CWD), bringing to eight the total
number of CWD incidents from the 2008 Kansas deer seasons.

The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks is still awaiting
final lab results on about 100 more tissue samples from
hunter-killed deer during the past deer season, according to Shane
Hesting, KDWP wildlife disease coordinator. More than 1,300 deer
tissue samples were collected from hunters around the state during
the past deer season, as KDWP continued annual sampling begun in
1996 to help track the occurrence of CWD in the state’s wild deer.
More than 10,000 tissue samples have undergone lab analysis since
annual sampling began.

All eight deer confirmed as CWD-positive were taken by hunters
in northwest Kansas. Of the five additional CWD-positive deer
confirmed by KDWP this week, two came from Sheridan County, two
from Rawlins County, and one from Cheyenne County.

The five newly-reported incidents are in addition to three
Decatur County CWD-positive deer documented in early January by
KDWP.

CWD has been detected previously in Kansas. During the 2007
season, three Decatur County whitetails were confirmed as
CWD-positive. The first occurrence in a wild Kansas deer was a
white-tailed doe killed by a Kansas hunter in 2005 in Cheyenne
County.

Although research is underway, there is currently no vaccine or
other biological method of preventing CWD. The only tool is to
prevent the spread of CWD to new areas, because once the infective
particle (an abnormal prion) is deposited into the environment —
either through an infected carcass or from a live animal — it may
exist for a decade or more, capable of infecting a healthy
deer.

Despite the recent occurrences, the likelihood of finding CWD in
a wild deer harvested in Kansas is small. That small likelihood
decreases even more the farther from northwestern Kansas the deer
lived. In recent years, numerous cases of CWD have been documented
in neighboring areas of Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming.

While CWD is fatal to infected deer and elk, humans have never
been known to contract the disease. CWD is a member of the group of
diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs).
Other diseases in this group include scrapie in sheep and goats,
bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease) in
cattle, and Cruetzfeldt-Jacob disease in people. None of the 8
CWD-positive deer from the 2008 seasons exhibited any outward sign
of CWD symptoms.

CWD is a progressive, fatal disease that results in small holes
developing in the brain, giving it a sponge-like appearance under
the microscope. Decreased brain function causes the animal to
display neurological symptoms such as depression, droopy head,
staggering, loss of appetite, and a lack of response to man. The
continuing deterioration of the brain leads to other symptoms such
as weight loss, drooling, and excessive thirst. Caution is advised
because of unknown factors associated with prion diseases, but no
human health risks have been discovered where CWD occurs.

The symptoms of CWD include loss of body weight, stumbling,
holding the head at an odd angle, circling, non-responsiveness to
people, and pneumonia. Any sick deer or elk should be reported it
to the nearest KDWP office or the Emporia Research Office,
620-342-0658.

Hunters can help protect the health of the Kansas deer herd by
taking the following steps to avoid accidentally introducing CWD to
a new area in Kansas:

  • do not transport deer carcasses far from the area where the
    deer lived, especially from areas where CWD has been detected, such
    as northwestern Kansas; and
  • if a carcass is transported, the hunter should make sure that
    carcass waste is not dumped into the environment where local deer
    or elk can come into contact with it. Carcass waste can be disposed
    of by double-bagging it and taking it to a landfill.

The Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance maintains an online
clearinghouse of information about the disease. More information is
also available on the KDWP website. Contact Bob Mathews at KDWP’s
Pratt office (620/672-5911) for more information.

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