LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has received 27 more positive cases of chronic wasting disease from a recent batch of samples taken in northern Newton County. This brings the total number of CWD-positive deer and elk cases in Arkansas to 50.

Although the intensive sampling effort to determine prevalence has been halted, many results from that effort are still pending.

“The samples that already have been taken should give us a good indication of the prevalence of CWD in the area,” said Brad Carner, chief of the AGFC’s Wildlife Management Division.

Carner says the last batch of 110 samples should arrive late next week. Samples collected from deer are sent to the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Madison. The elk samples are going to the Colorado State University Prion Research Center in Fort Collins. So far, three of the elk samples have been found to be positive for CWD.

Some CWD-positive samples came from dead or sick deer found outside the original sampling zone. This has prompted a second phase of sampling to begin on a much larger scale.

“Since it was found outside our original focal area, we need to see just how far the disease has spread,” said Cory Gray, AGFC deer program coordinator. “We will need the public’s help more than ever for this next phase of testing.”

Gray says the AGFC will take samples from any sick or dead deer reported throughout the state. A primary focus will be on road-killed animals.

“Samples taken from road kills have a greater chance of testing positive than random samples from healthy animals,” Gray said. “The presence of CWD can only be determined within a day or two of the animal’s death, so we need the public to call in and report any road-killed deer as soon as they see it.”

This second phase of testing will continue until at least May 20. Any person witnessing a sick or dead deer or elk should contact the AGFC’s radio room at 800-482-9262. Operators are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

CWD is a neurological disease that’s part of a group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. Once in a host’s body, prions transform normal cellular protein into abnormal shapes that accumulate until the cell ceases to function. As the brains of infected animals degenerate, they lose weight, lose their appetite and develop an insatiable thirst. They tend to stay away from herds, walk in patterns, carry their head low, salivate and grind their teeth.

The AGFC is holding weekly public meetings at Carroll Electric Cooperative, 511 E. Court St. in Jasper. The next meeting will be at 11 a.m., April 7.

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