Chronic wasting disease found in Sumner County deer

Chronic wasting disease has been detected  in a Sumner County deer, according to state wildlife officials .

Shane Hesting, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, wildlife disease coordinator, said the deer was a yearling whitetail doe that was killed by a hunter last deer season. It’s the first time the disease has been recorded in south-central Kansas.

CWD is a fatal disease that can effect all members of the deer family, including elk, moose, whitetail and mule deer. EVen though it’s closely related to Mad Cow Disease, there’s no proof it can jump to other kinds of animals or humans, said Lloyd Fox, Wildlife and Parks big game program coordinator.

Nine deer tested positive for the disease out of  more than 2,400 Kansas samples sent for testing last year. Results have just returned from state and federal labrotories. Six were in northwest Kansas. First-ever cases were reported in Ford, Stafford and Sumner counties.

CWD was first diagnosed along the Wyoming/Colorado border in the 1960s,  but it’s become more widespread within the past 15 years. Currently it’s found in 1at least 19 states and 2 Canadian provinces.

Kansas’ first case was in a captive elk in Harper County in 2001. The first wild deer confirmed was in Cheyenne County, in extreme northwest Kansas, in 2005.  A total of 49 deer have tested positive for the disease since testing began in 1996. Hesting said about 23,500 deer have been tested through those years. Most samples were gathered from deer shot by hunters, though Wildlife and Parks staff have also taken samples from road-kills and sick deer that had to be destroyed.

Fox said Sumner County has accounted for hundreds of samples through the years.

Until recently the disease had shown a steady spread from the first positive in Cheyenne County, moving a county or two to the east and south every year. Deer normally contract it from contact with infected deer.

The biologists aren’t sure why the disease showed up in three areas at least 100 miles from previously confirmed cases last year. Fox said research done on northwest Kansas deer several decades ago showed that they’re very mobile, often moving 50 or more miles. It’s also possible an area hunter shot a deer in northwest Kansas, then brought the carcass home and disposed of the offal locally.

CWD is primarily  held within a deer’s brain, lymph glands and spinal area. Hunters are advised to avoid contact with those areas  when field-dressing or processing deer.

Hunters are advised not to eat deer they know have tested positive for CWD, but admit only a small portion of the population gets sampled annually. “We know we’ve had people eat deer with CWD,” Fox said.

He also said six  years of the disease hasn’t deterred people from hunting or eating venison in northwest Kansas. “The hunters tend to get kind of blase about it once it’s been there for so long,” he said. “People make their own decisions, but know CWD hasn’t been found in humans.”

Fox said hunters can have a veterinarian or Wildlife and Parks biologist take samples from deer they shoot, then ship them to K-State for testing. The school charges about $23 for testing. Shipping and veterinarian charges would be extra.

The public is asked to report all sick-acting animals, especially deer, to Wildlife and Parks, at 620-342-0658. CWD symptoms include deer being non-responsive, unable to stand and can’t run or walk. Fox cautioned that other diseases carry similar symptoms.