Minnesota deer hunters fearful of chronic wasting disease can have their animals tested at a university lab this fall.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources assistant wildlife director, Ed Boggess, said the testing will give skittish hunters “reassurance.”

“However, based on the best scientific information available, both state and federal health officials continue to believe CWD is not transmittable to people through eating venison, or by any other means,” he said.

Nearly 100 vet clinics across the state have agreed to collect brain stem samples from hunters’ deer and send them to a University of Minnesota laboratory for CWD testing.

Hunters will be notified of test results through the mail. Positive results will show with certainty that a deer had CWD when it was killed.

“However, just because a deer tests negative doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been recently infected,” Boggess said. That’s because CWD has a slow incubation time, he said.

The test will be available to any hunter for a fee determined by local veterinarians and the state lab. Hunters should register deer before taking them to clinics for sampling. The test may require removing the deer’s head. Samples sent by individual hunters will not be accepted.

The DNR also plans to test 5,000 to 6,000 deer at hunter registration stations this fall to monitor the disease. Minnesota’s regular firearms hunt in southeastern counties is Nov. 9-17 and Nov. 23-29.

The disease showed up in several of Wisconsin’s wild deer and captive deer and elk this year. In Minnesota, the disease has yet to be found in wild deer but has been detected in one captive elk.

There’s no scientific evidence the disease can be transmitted to humans, said Bill Schafer of the University of Minnesota Extension Service and Center for Animal Health and Food Safety.

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal brain ailment of deer and elk and is caused by an abnormally-shaped protein, called a prion.

“Prions have never been found in muscle meat, even in infected deer,” Schafer said.

After 16 years of monitoring affected areas in Colorado, officials found no incidence in humans, he said.

Even so, health officials warn people to avoid eating deer that appear ill or behave unhealthily. People also are warned to avoid the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes, and to not cut through bones.

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