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With CWD confirmed, err on side of caution

What deer biologists in Mississippi have feared for years has finally happened. The first case of Chronic Wasting Disease in a white-tailed deer has been confirmed.

CWD is much like “mad cow” disease in cattle. It’s a brain and nervous system disease that affects deer, elk, moose and other members of the deer family. It is always fatal for deer.

“While there has never been a reported case of CWD in people, if it could spread to humans it would likely come from eating an infected animal, like an infected deer,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said.

As a precaution, the Centers for Disease Control recommends having deer meat tested if the deer was harvested in an area affected by CWD. In Mississippi, that’s the area in and around Issaquena County. However, CWD cannot be positively detected in processed meat.

“Since there is no test that can safely rule out CWD infection in processed meat, MSDH is recommending hunters consider not eating venison from deer harvested in an area with known CWD,” said Byers.

Southwest Mississippi has plenty of deer hunters, and some of them may have harvested a deer in the area where the CWD case was discovered. If so, it’s best to err on the side of safety.

The following precautions are recommended to avoid potential exposure to the disease:

• Hunters should consider not eating venison from deer harvested within the CWD Management Zone as defined by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

• Do not shoot, handle or eat meat from a deer that appears sick.

• Wear latex or rubber gloves when field dressing your deer.

• Bone out the meat from your animal. Don’t saw through bone, and avoid cutting through the brain or spinal cord (backbone).

• Minimize the handling of brain and spinal tissues.

• Wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field dressing is completed.

• Avoid consuming brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes of harvested animals. (Normal field dressing coupled with boning out a carcass will remove most, if not all, of these body parts. Cutting away all fatty tissue will remove remaining lymph nodes.)

• Avoid consuming the meat from any animal that tests positive for the disease.

• If you have your deer commercially processed, request that your animal is processed individually, without meat from other animals being added to meat from your animal.