LINCOLN — The presence of chronic wasting disease in deer has been detected for the first time in the southwestern Nebraska counties of Chase, Dundy, Hayes, Frontier and Franklin, according to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
The Commission conducted a CWD sampling operation in its Northwest and Southwest District deer check stations during the 2017 November firearm deer season.
There were 203 positives from 1,807 deer sampled primarily in the Frenchman, Platte, Republican, Pine Ridge, Upper Platte and Plains management units. Both whitetails and mule deer were sampled.
The goal of this sampling effort is to assess the spread and prevalence of the disease through periodic testing in each region of the state, which in turn helps biologists predict when and if future effects on deer numbers may occur. Testing will take place in regional locations of the state in the next several years.
Although present in Colorado and Wyoming for several decades, CWD was first discovered in Nebraska in 2000 in Kimball County. Since 1997, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission staff have tested nearly 51,000 deer and found 499 that tested positive. CWD has been found in 40 Nebraska counties, but no population declines attributable to the disease have yet occurred.
CWD is a prion disease that attacks the brain of an infected deer and elk, eventually causing emaciation, listlessness, excessive salivation and death. It is generally thought that CWD is transmitted from animal to animal through exchange of body fluids, but other modes of transmission may exist.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, no person is known to have contracted CWD; however, hunters should cautiously handle and process deer and avoid consuming animals that test positive or look sick. Livestock and other animals not in the deer family also do not appear susceptible to CWD.
Hunters can help prevent the spread of CWD by using proper carcass disposal methods. CWD prions, the infectious proteins that transmit the disease, can remain viable for months or even years in the soil. Hunters should field dress animals at the place of kill, avoid spreading spinal cord or brain tissue to meat, and to dispose of the head (brain), spinal column and other bones at a licensed landfill.