ST. LOUIS • The number of confirmed cases of chronic disease in Missouri deer increased last year, but an expert from the state Department of Conservation said that aggressive management efforts are helping to contain the spread.
Wildlife disease coordinator Jasmine Batten said 15 deer tested positive for the 19,500 chronic disease tested since July. There were nine cases in the state last year.
About 16,000 deer were evaluated during the first two days of the deer season for firearms in November. Other proven deer include killing in high-risk areas, deer killed by landowners and deer found dead by apparent disease.
Sick deer were found in eight counties throughout the state: four in Linn, three in Franklin, two in each Macon and Ste. Genevieve, and one each in Cedar, Jefferson, Polk and St. Clair
Fifty-seven deer with fatal brain disease have been found in Missouri since 2012.
Batten said the numbers could be much worse, since more than 330 deer with chronic attrition disease have been confirmed in the northwest of Arkansas, near the border with Missouri. Neighboring Illinois has reported 685 sick deer since 2003. In addition, the number of cases in northeastern Missouri, where the disease was first detected in the state, has declined in recent years.
"The sooner we detect the disease out there, the more likely we are to manage it successfully," Batten said. "First of all, we focus mainly on prevention, when we find the disease, we have a series of rules that we implement to prevent the disease from spreading to new parts of the state."
Chronic wasting disease was first recognized in a captive mule deer in Colorado in the late 1960s. It affects populations of deer, elk and elk in 24 states and two Canadian provinces.
Infected deer often suffer dramatic weight loss and may drool, stumble or appear apathetic. The disease is usually transmitted from one deer to another by direct contact or saliva, urine or feces left on the plants or soil.
The disease is similar to mad cow disease, both of which are caused by infectious proteins called prions. But unlike a variant of mad cow disease, there have been no reported cases of chronic diseases that infect people.
Still, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention UU And other health and wildlife organizations warn against eating sick venison. Batten said that hunters in areas where the disease has been found should be tested for venison in a laboratory before eating it. The tests usually take six to eight weeks.
"Because there are still uncertainties about this disease, the common sense precaution is to take a little more care," Batten said.