Deer found with fatal neurological disease in Mississippi near Louisiana border

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ISSAQUENA COUNTY, Miss. — The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) is monitoring the discovery of a white-tailed deer found dead with chronic wasting disease in Issaquena County, Miss., which borders East Carroll and Madison parishes in northeast Louisiana.

The disease is infectious and always fatal in deer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence that CWD can infect humans.

LDWF encourages landowners in East Carroll, Madison and Tensas parishes to curtail supplemental feeding of deer as a means to limit concentration and spread of the disease.

According to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) a 4-year-old free-ranging buck, that appeared to be emaciated, was found dead on Jan. 25. It tested positive for CWD on Jan. 29 at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.

As part of its response, the MDWFP has banned supplemental feeding in Issaquena, Claiborne, Hinds, Sharkey, Warren and Yazoo counties. This is the first case of CWD documented in Mississippi, which becomes the 25th state to confirm the presence of the disease.

LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet said LDWF is coordinating with Mississippi officials for sampling and containment measures.

Deer infected with CWD can spread the disease even before symptoms develop. It can take one to two years for infected animals to become symptomatic. When symptoms appear, they can include emaciation, lethargy, abnormal behavior and loss of bodily functions. Other signs include excessive salivation, loss of appetite, progressive weight loss, excessive thirst and urination, teeth grinding and drooping ears.

LDWF has tested more than 8,300 deer since 2002 and has not detected CWD. Deer routinely swim the Mississippi River, often to escape floodwaters.

CWD is a neurodegenerative disease found in most deer species, including moose, elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer.

It is infectious and always fatal. It is part of a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) and is similar to BSE (Bovine spongiform encephalopathy or mad cow disease) of cattle and scrapie in sheep. These diseases cause irreversible damage to brain tissue that leads to salivation, neurological symptoms, emaciation and death of the animal.

CWD is caused by prions which are proteins normally found in the body that have mutated. These prions kill nerve cells and cause holes to develop in the brain tissue. They are spread through direct deer-to-deer contact or through contact with urine, feces, saliva and body parts of infected deer or infectious materials in the soil.

Decomposing body parts of dead, infected deer can also contaminate the soil.  Plants growing in that soil can take up the prions. Deer can become infected by feeding in areas with prion-contaminated soil and plants. The prions remain in the environment for years. There is no practical method of decontaminating an infected area.

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