Chronic Wasting Disease Threatens Deer Population: What You Should Know
The deer hunting season in the United States has started off on a shaky foundation, with more animals testing positive for chronic wasting disease in different states.
Infected Deer In Minnesota
The CWD breakout in Minnesota is reportedly expanding within the state's southeastern zone.
Seven new cases of CWD are currently being investigated in Fillmore County, where 11 other white-tailed deer were confirmed to be infected during the surveillance, which began during the hunting season last year.
Minnesota’s wildlife research manager Lou Cornicelli said that three of the new cases were found in deer killed by hunters in the Forestville-Mystery Cave State Park. The area is around 7 miles southwest of the main cluster of the diseased deer, which were hunted between Lanesboro and Preston.
Cornicelli added that detecting seven new cases from a sample of 700 hunted deer, which indicated a 1 percent rate of infection, was less worrisome than the fact that three of the infected deer were discovered in a state park located quite a distance away from the actual cluster.
“I don’t know what it means yet,” Cornicelli said.
Minnesota’s deer population, comprising of more than 1 million whitetails, was said to be free of CWD until the infection outbreak was detected near Preston. The Department of Natural Resources hoped to contain the epidemic with an aggressive thinning of the white-tailed deer in Fillmore County, backed up by detailed CWD testing of newly hunted animals.
The DNR is also testing for CWD in whitetails harvested by hunters in two special zones centered in Crow Wing and Meeker counties, where surveillance was set up around two deer farms that reported the disease in captive deer in the past year. Cornicelli said there have been no preliminary signs of the disease in the wild deer of those areas so far.
Minnesota Not The Only US State Affected By CWD: Is This Cause For Worry?
Minnesota is not the only state in the country where CWD has been detected in deer population. Reports of CWD-infected deer have also come from Michigan, Montana, Wyoming, and Arkansas.
CWD, which is reported to be on the move, is not only scaring off hunters but also posing a threat to the hunting industry's billions of dollars. The problem, however, does not have a quick solution.
"It's a very serious issue, currently and into the future," the regional director of the Quality Deer Management Association in Indiana and Michigan, Josh Halyard, said. "This is just not something that can be dealt with quickly. It's going to take time, a lot of time, and you don't see results until you're down the road."
Chronic Wasting Disease: Can It Affect Humans?
No cases of CWD infection have been reported in people to date, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC has, however, warned that eating meat from CWD-infected moose, elk, and deer or coming into contact with their body fluids or brain can be risky for humans.
The agency also advised hunters who have harvested animals from a known CWD-infected area to have it tested before consuming it. CDC has further instructed people to follow certain simple precautions, which should be taken while field dressing the animals.
The measures include wearing eye protection and rubber gloves, washing instruments and hands thoroughly after field dressing, and minimizing the handling of spinal tissues and brain of deer.