Alberta has documented another four cases of chronic wasting disease in wild deer near the Alberta-Saskatchwan boundary.

This brings the total of the number of deer with confirmed cases of the disease in the province to eight since the first case was discovered last September.

The federal Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed the province’s latest findings this week.

The latest cases were discovered near Acadia Valley and Empress, near the Saskatchewan boundary just northeast of Medicine Hat.

They were in the same area as the other four cases. Alberta’s first case of the disease in wild deer was discovered last September about 30 kilometres southeast of Oyen.

The latest four were discovered as a result of disease-control measures that rounded up and tested 837 wild deer in southeast Alberta.

There have been over 100 reported cases of the disease in wild deer in Saskatchewan.

Chronic wasting disease attacks the nervous system of the animals in such a way they cannot maintain weight. As a result, they slowly waste away.

It is caused by a particle of protein, called a prion, becoming deformed and hindering the body’s ability to grow or regenerate itself.

It is related to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, another disease caused by deformed prions which affect the brains of cattle.

There is no scientific evidence it can affect humans. However, as a precaution, the World Health Organization advises against allowing products from animals known to be infected with any prion disease into the human food system.

The disease is known to infect wild mule deer, elk, white-tailed deer as well as game farm animals.

It was first discovered in Alberta in March 2002 in farmed elk. It was identified in farmed deer in November of that year.

The province is taking disease-control actions based on recommendations of an International Expert Scientific Panel on chronic wasting disease and guided by Canada’s National CWD Control Strategy.

Local deer culls to eliminate new areas of infection and population reduction in high-risk areas are the recommended actions to control and prevent the spread of the disease.

“Alberta considers chronic wasting disease a serious environmental and economic threat and will continue to take swift and immediate action to prevent further spread,” said Sustainable Resources Minister David. “We will modify and enhance our management programs as new information on the disease is made available.”