Deer and elk hunters shouldn’t let worries about chronic wasting disease keep them from the hunt this year. Although one case was confirmed in eastern Utah this past fall, state wildlife officials haven’t been able to find any other infected animals.
The wild deer was found in an area north of Vernal. As a precaution, the Division of Wildlife Resources killed 90 deer in the area for testing. All the deer tested were free of the disease. The only test for the disease requires the animal’s brain be removed.
“We’re delighted about the results,” said Dr. Mike Marshall, state veterinarian for the department of agriculture and food. Marshall reported his findings to the state Legislature’s Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee on Wednesday.
Chronic wasting disease affects deer and elk. It attacks the brain, leaving sponge-like holes. According to the National Wildlife Federation, infected animals may not show symptoms, or they might appear emaciated, stagger and have poor posture.
Marshall said he wasn’t surprised that a deer in eastern Utah was infected with the disease because there have been so many cases in western Colorado.
He said there is no general crossover of the disease to humans. Chronic wasting disease is similar to mad cow disease and scrapie in sheep.
According to the NWF, the disease was detected first at a Fort Collins, Colo., research facility in 1967, where workers first named it. The first wild elk with the disease were found in Colorado in 1981.
Although there is no evidence the disease is transferable to humans, the NWF advises deer and elk hunters to be careful. It says hunters shouldn’t eat obviously sick animals; should wear rubber gloves when field dressing animals; touch brain and spinal tissue as little as possible; wash hands and instruments after field dressing; bone out the meat; and avoid eating the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes.