TOPEKA, Kan. — Chronic wasting disease is becoming more prevalent in deer in western Kansas, according to a state wildlife official.
The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism recently announced that 37 of more than 360 deer have tested positive for the fatal disease since the beginning of the fiscal year.
Chronic wasting disease causes brain lesions in deer, elk and moose. It’s transmissible through blood and other body fluid of infected animals.
The agency’s wildlife disease coordinator, Shane Hesting, told the Topeka Capital-Journal that most of the CWD-infected deer were killed by hunters in southwest Kansas. The disease has become more prevalent in the northwestern part of the state over the past several years, he said.
The department hasn’t detected chronic wasting disease in eastern Kansas, but Hesting said it doesn’t mean it is absent from the area.
“Typically, when you’re a state that has CWD, we say that the prevalence or the occurrence of a disease is below the detectable level when you’re not finding it,” Hesting said. “It could possibly be there and probably is there but is just not showing up in your sample size.”
Deer can be infected with the disease for long periods of time without showing any symptoms, such as weight loss and disorientation, according to Hesting.
The department focused its disease surveillance in southwest Kansas this past hunting season. The department plans to rotate its surveillance to the northwest corner of the state beginning July 1.
Hunters or landowners within the agency’s surveillance zone can send deer samples for CWD testing free of charge. Hunters outside the northwest zone will have to cover the testing cost themselves.
Hesting suggested testing deer or elk before eating the animal’s meat, particularly in areas known to carry CWD.
There’s no evidence of the disease being transmissible to people, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised against eating meat from infected animals.