CWD Update: New positive found in southwest Mississippi

Published 4:31 pm Thursday, December 21, 2023

JACKSON — Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks reported a new positive detection of Chronic Wasting Disease in Warren County Thursday. It is now the fifth positive detected in Warren County since 2018.

Chronic Wasting Disease is a 100 percent always fatal disease found in deer and other members of the cervidae family. CWD is caused by an infectious prion, misfolded protein, which is neurodegenerative. Deer often do not show any physical symptoms of CWD until the late stages of the disease which could be 18 months after initial infection.

Positive deer shed CWD prions into the environment through bodily fluids where they persist in soil and vegetation. Healthy deer can become infected through this indirect contact with prions in the environment or with direct contact with infected deer.

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Since first detection in 2018, MDWFP has detected 252 positives. The first positive was detected in Issaquena County where there are now three positives. Warren County had a positive detection early in the year and added this fifth detection this week.

Hunters in Warren County have submitted 1,833 samples since 2018. More samples are needed across the state especially in counties where there has been less than 300 samples per year. The majority of counties in Southwest Mississippi fall into this category.

Hunter submitted sampling is crucial in detecting the disease early so the state agency can enact the CWD management plan to mitigate the spread of the disease. Benton County, which has historically been one of the more sampled counties, leads the state in positives with 151 since first detection.

CWD samples can be dropped off at self serve coolers around the state or at participating taxidermists. The closest drop-off cooler to Lincoln County is in Hazlehurst at the Mississippi State Extension Service Office there. Lincoln County’s participating taxidermists are Brent Opdyke, Allen Morgan and George Wilson and their information can be found on the MDWFP CWD page. 

Why is CWD a concern?

Chronic Wasting Disease prions are shed into the environment in the bodily fluids of infected deer. Healthy deer can become infected by indirect contact with these prions in the soil or direct contact with an infected deer. Prions persist in the environment for a long period of time long after a CWD infected deer dies. 

Deer do not show symptoms of CWD until the later stages of the disease which could be 12 to 18 months after they become infected which is why it is important for deer to be tested. As long as states keep prevalence rates low they can mitigate the spread of the disease and maintain a healthy deer population. 

The Center for Disease Control reports there are no CWD cases in humans from eating positive deer meat but it doesn’t mean the disease can’t spread to humans. It is best to avoid eating meat of a CWD positive deer.

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission State Veterinarian Jennifer Ballard presented an in depth look into the disease at a MDWFP commission meeting last year. 

Preliminary research in Arkansas shows CWD positive deer are most likely to die directly from Chronic Wasting Disease as opposed to other causes of death. CWD is also impacting the recruitment of fawns in Arkansas.