Iowa has its first case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in a wild deer, and the infected whitetail was found in a county that borders southeastern Minnesota.
The deer was reported as harvested in Allamakee County in northeastern Iowa in early December. Officials with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources said they are working to obtain as much information as possible about the infected deer to implement its CWD response plan.
“We have been testing for CWD in Iowa’s deer herd for more than a decade and are optimistic, given the extensive data we have collected, that we have caught this early,” said Chuck Gipp, DNR director.
“The next step will be to focus our monitoring efforts in the area where the animal was harvested and work closely with local landowners and hunters to gather more information.” said Gipp.
CWD had been detected in every bordering state, including Minnesota, where the only wild deer infected with CWD was killed by a hunter in 2010 near Pine Island. Other cases in Minnesota have occurred in pen-raised deer and elk.
The most recent Minnesota case of CWD occurred in a captive European red deer in North Oaks.
Minnesota DNR officials said Wednesday that they will test deer killed by hunters this fall in an area adjacent to the Iowa county to see if any more deer have CWD.
The DNR sampled deer killed along the Minnesota-Wisconsin border after a deer with CWD was found near Shell Lake, Wis., in 2011. Officials didn't find any additional CWD-positive deer.
“With CWD in all the states around us, we have understood the possibility of a positive detection in the wild deer herd for some time” said Gipp of the Iowa DNR.
CWD is a neurological disease affecting primarily deer and elk. It is caused by an abnormal protein, called a prion that attacks the brains of infected animals, causing them to lose weight, display abnormal behavior and lose bodily functions. Signs include excessive salivation, thirst and urination, loss of appetite, progressive weight loss, listlessness and drooping ears and head. The only reliable test for CWD requires testing of lymph nodes or brain material.
There is currently no evidence that humans can contract CWD by eating venison. However, the National Institute of Health and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that hunters do not eat the brain, eyeballs or spinal cord of deer and that hunters wear protective gloves while field dressing game and boning out meat for consumption.