Wasting disease found in more deer

Published January 16, 2006 12:32 am
New area: DWR tests indicate the disease has spread to the central portion of the state
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The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has found eight new cases of chronic wasting disease in deer in Utah.

Two of the deer that tested positive came from the central part of the state, near the Spencer Fork Wildlife Management Area, about 20 miles north of Fountain Green. This surprised wildlife officials because in the past, only one other deer in that area of the state has ever tested positive, and that was two years ago.

"We tested more than 1,000 deer in that area in the fall of 2003 and 2004 and didn't find any other deer with the disease," Leslie McFarlane, wildlife disease specialist for the Division of Wildlife Resources, said in a statement. "The two deer that tested positive this year, however, confirm that we do have the disease in the central part of the state."

The known total of cases of deer with the fatal nervous system disease in Utah now stands at 26.

The new cases were discovered after 2,100 deer were collected during the 2005 fall hunting season specifically to be tested for CWD. Two of the eight deer were taken during last fall's muzzle loader season, and six were taken during the rifle hunt. Still, no deer have been found in northern Utah infected with the disease.

Last year DWR tested 3,000 deer and seven had the disease. This year's results show the division that the disease is so far contained to just a few areas, McFarlane said.

"It just gives us an idea of prevalence in the state," she said.

CWD affects the nervous system of mule deer, white-tailed deer and Rocky Mountain elk. Animals with CWD develop brain lesions, lose weight, salivate uncontrollably and then die, though it's impossible to tell that an animal has the disease until death. CWD is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, similar to so-called "mad cow disease." A human form of the disorder is called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Federal and state officials have not found that eating an animal with CWD leads to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. But DWR did notify the hunters whose deer tested positive and suggested they dispose of the meat from the animal, McFarlane said.


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