Chronic Wasting Disease Confirmed In Michigan Deer

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has confirmed at least one case of chronic wasting disease. Although the infection does not pose any known risk to humans, it often devastates deer and elk populations as there is no known treatment or cure.

Wildlife officials said the white-tailed doe was found in a residential neighborhood in Meridian Township. A subsequent necropsy confirmed the deer was infected with the debilitating disease.

As reported by the United States Geological Society, chronic wasting disease affects the central nervous system of deer and elk. Although the initial symptoms may seem innocuous, the animals slowly lose their appetite -- and eventually waste away.

Additional symptoms often include depression, excessive drooling, repetitive behaviors, and tremors. Although the length of illness varies, there is no known cure and the inevitable outcome is death.

Chronic wasting disease, which was formally identified in 1967, was initially confined to captive herds. However, it was later detected in free-range elk, mule deer, and white-tail deer.

As reported by Click on Detroit, the devastating illness is still most prominent in captive herds. However, wildlife officials have confirmed cases in 23 different states. Prior to the recent diagnosis, Michigan only saw one confirmed case of chronic wasting disease.

In 2008, a white-tailed deer, which lived on a Kent County breeding farm, was diagnosed with the debilitating disease. Thankfully, the other deer on the farm were not affected.

Michigan's most recent case of chronic wasting disease was detected in a wild deer.

Dan Eichinger, executive director of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, said the news is "nothing short of tragic," but "not wholly unexpected."

Last year, wildlife officials in Holmes County, Ohio, identified the state's first case of chronic wasting disease. The white-tailed deer, which was discovered at a private hunting club, was reportedly transferred to Ohio from Pennsylvania.

As reported by The Columbus Dispatch, the infected deer was one of 125 deer imported to Ohio hunting clubs. However, Ohio Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Erica Hawkins said there is no "reason to suspect that [the disease] has jumped from the captive herd to the wild population."

Although chronic wasting disease poses no known threat to humans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges hunters to be cautious.

"Hunters and others should avoid eating meat from deer and elk that look sick or that test positive for CWD. Hunters who harvest deer or elk from known CWD-positive areas may wish to consider having the animal tested for CWD before consuming the meat... Persons involved in field-dressing carcasses should wear gloves, bone-out the meat from the animal, and minimize handling of the brain and spinal cord tissues."
Wildlife officials are specifically concerned, as chronic wasting disease poses a serious threat to wild deer and elk populations. Unfortunately, it could take years to determine how far the devastating disease may have spread.

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