Deer disease, which could potentially spread to people, causing nationwide concern

Deer disease, which can spread to people, causing nationwide concern
Deer disease, which can spread to people, causing nationwide concern
Posted at 2:23 PM, Nov 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-29 08:10:39-05

AKRON, OH (WOIO/WTXL) - Hunting season continues with a warning about a disease threatening the deer population.

The main concern is that this disease has the potential to spread to humans. 

CWD or Chronic Wasting Disease has similar characteristics to Mad Cow, and has broken out all across the country. 

"They will appear to be very sick. You'll see that they just look (emaciated). Real skinny and they're not moving around," said Ohio Division of WildlifeDistrict Manager, Peter Novotny.

The infection, which impacts the brain, ultimately becomes extremely detrimental to the animal.

"They are transmitted deer to deer, but we're not exactly sure of that mechanism yet and how to prevent," said Novotny.

We're told that's because the disease is so new.

Biologists all over the world have been studying CWD to find out how it even developed in the first place.

"The good news is that we haven't detected any transmission from that disease to humans. That's the good news," said Novotny.

Here's more good news: there's never been a case found in Florida and Georgia. 

However, the CDC says that as of September 2017, CWD in free-ranging deer, elk and/or moose has been reported in nearly half of the United States, as well as two provinces in Canada.

In several locations where the disease is established, infection rates may exceed 10 percent (1 in 10), and localized infection rates of more than 25 percent (1 in 4) have been reported. 

Novotny has advice on how you can avoid contracting the virus if you're a hunter.

"Anytime that a hunter harvests a deer they should be keeping themselves bathed with the biological agent salt. Use gloves. Wash up after you're done," said Novotny. 

Studies show that monkeys were able to contract the disease through infected meat and cooking and antibiotics won't kill the infection. However, since CWD is a disease of the brain, you should be fine to eat deer meat with the right precautions.

"The safest thing that we recommend is spinal, taking away that spinal matter of the deer and just using that muscle meat like we would do in hamburger or steaks," said Novotny.

The CDC is warning hunters not to shoot, handle or eat meat from deer and elk that look sick or are acting strangely or are found dead.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has initiated a comprehensive monitoring program to ensure that Florida's deer herds are free of CWD. You can find out more here

For Georgia, hunters should report all suspicious findings to the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division by calling (800) 241-4113.

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