Chronic Wasting Disease Confirmed in Two Free-Range Missouri Deer
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) confirmed Tuesday the presence of chronic wasting disease in two hunter harvested free-ranging deer in Macon County, Mo., about 70 miles south of Centerville, Iowa.
In a statement, the MDC said it plans to collect additional samples for testing in the immediate area where the two CWD positive deer were harvested. The positive deer were harvested near a deer hunting preserve where two captive deer tested positive for CWD this past fall.
Chronic wasting disease is a brain disease that can infect deer, elk, and moose and is classed as a spongiform encephalopathy. An abnormal protein agent, called a prion, causes normal proteins of the brain to take on a different shape and form microscopic holes in the brains of infected animals. The disease is always fatal, although it may remain dormant within an infected animal for long periods of time.
In the later stages of the disease, animals will appear severely emaciated, lethargic, and display repetitive behaviors. Excessive thirst and salivation, tremors, extreme behavioral changes, and drooping head and ears are also often displayed.
In the spring of 2010, a captive deer in Linn County, Mo., also tested positive. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources increased the number of tissue samples collected annually in Appanoose and Wayne counties in southern Iowa in 2010 after news of CWD in the captive deer.
Nearly 4,500 samples from Iowa deer were collected statewide during the 2011 seasons as part of the surveillance for CWD. Those samples will be sent to the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Lab at Texas A&M University for testing.
The Iowa DNR began monitoring for the disease in 2000 and has submitted 39,000 deer samples for analysis.
“Chronic wasting disease has now been confirmed in every state bordering Iowa but so far, we have not had a sample come back positive,” said Dale Garner, chief of the Iowa DNR’s Wildlife Bureau.
DNR staff began collecting samples from hunters in September, but most come during the shotgun seasons when the majority of deer are harvested. Garner said 94 percent of the tissue samples were from hunter harvested deer that were volunteered at check stations, hanging sheds and meat lockers. Samples are collected from every county.
“Hunters have been our partners in this monitoring effort and we appreciate their willingness to work with us,” he said.
Anyone observing a deer displaying CWD symptoms should immediately contact the Iowa DNR.
To date, there is no evidence that humans can contract CWD by eating venison. However, the National Institute of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that hunters (especially hunters hunting in areas where CWD is known to occur) do not eat the brain, eyeballs, or spinal cord of deer, that hunters wear protective gloves while field dressing game, and bone out meat for consumption.