LARAMIE – A cow elk near Encampment and two mule deer near Kaycee have tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD) marking the first time either area has had positive tests for elk or deer in those hunt areas. CWD is a brain disease known to affect some moose, deer and elk.
“Although CWD has been found in southeastern Wyoming for a number of years, this is the first time we have found CWD in elk in hunt area 110,” says Bob Lanka, Wyoming Game and Fish regional information specialist in Laramie. Likewise, the positive tests for deer in hunt area 163 southwest of Kaycee is the first time deer have tested positive from that hunt unit. According to the Game and Fish, finding CWD in both locations is not that surprising since the disease has been documented in animals in neighboring hunt areas. CWD was found in deer in the same hunt area near Encampment in 2002 and in elk in areas located east and west of unit 110. It has also been found south of the state line in Colorado for a number of years. While deer area 163 has never had a positive test, in 2004 the Game and Fish found two deer that tested positive in nearby hunt areas 30 and 31. Since that time hundreds of deer have been tested near Kaycee with no positive tests until this year.
Department personnel collected the lymph nodes from the hunter harvested deer and elk in October. Personnel in the Wyoming Game and Fish Department laboratory analyzed the samples and discovered the positive results. Both hunt areas will be added to the Department’s list of areas known to have CWD. The Game and Fish recommends that hunters in those areas transport only cut and wrapped meat, boned meat, animal quarters or other pieces with no portion of the spinal column or head attached, hides without the head, cleaned skull plates, and antlers with no meat or other tissue attached. The head, spine and other nervous tissue, areas where the abnormal protein or prion causing the disease is found in affected animals, should be left at the site of the kill or disposed of in an approved landfill.
There is no evidence that CWD is a human health risk. After a review of scientific data, the World Health Organization in December 1999 stated, “There is currently no evidence that CWD in cervidae (deer and elk) is transmitted to humans.” In 2004, Dr. Ermias Belay of the Center for Disease Control said, “The lack of evidence of a link between CWD transmission and unusual cases of CJD (Cruetzfeldt-Jacob disease, a human prion disease) despite several epidemiological investigations, suggest the risk, if any, of transmission of CWD to humans is low.” Nonetheless to avoid risk, both organizations say parts or products from any animal that looks sick or tests positive for CWD or other TSEs should not be eaten.