Chronic wasting disease detected in Salt Lake County deer for the first time

The disease appears to be spreading in Utah, a Division of Wildlife official said.

(Courtesy of Jim Shuler) Chronic wasting disease has been detected in four Salt Lake County deer for the first time.

Chronic wasting disease has been found in Salt Lake County deer for the first time, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

The four deer that were tested were found near North Salt Lake and Bountiful between December 2021 and March 2022. All four were confirmed to have the rare disease, which affects the nervous systems of deer, elk and moose.

Previously, the disease was only found in Sanpete, Duchesne, Uintah, Davis, San Juan, Grand and Carbon counties.

“This disease unfortunately does appear to be spreading in Utah, and we will continue to do extensive monitoring to stay on top of the disease and its prevalence in the state,” said DWR State Wildlife Veterinarian Ginger Stout in a news release.

So far, 26 Utah deer have tested positive for chronic wasting disease this year — along with 157 mule deer and three elk.

Animals that contract chronic wasting disease develop brain lesions, become emaciated, appear listless, may salivate excessively and eventually die. The disease is caused by a protein particle called a prion, which is the same type of particle that causes “mad cow disease” in bovines.

Infected animals may shed prions in their urine, feces and saliva — causing contamination in the soil that can stay infectious for years. Transmission can also occur through direct contact with the infected animal.

Transmission from animals to humans is considered extremely low, according to the Centers for Disease Control, but people should not consume meat from animals infected with chronic wasting disease.

To report a deer that appears sick, individuals should contact their nearest DWR office.