By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Nine new cases of presumptive chronic wasting disease in northwest Kansas deer have been reported.

One case of a deer out of Decatur County already had been confirmed. As a result, 10 cases have been found so far in Kansas, all of them from northwest Kansas.

Three of those hail from new counties of detection, including one as far east as Smith County.

"That's a yearling buck, and they're known to travel," said Shane Hesting, wildlife disease coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. "That may help to explain that."

But Nebraska had a case of a CWD-infected deer in Hall County, Neb., less than 100 miles north -- and slightly east -- of Smith Center. Grand Island is the largest city in Hall County.

Also new are presumptive positives for two mule deer, the first muleys that have been found to be infected. Mule deer have no resistance to CWD, but none of the positive test results have included them.

Even though 40 deer now have been found to be infected with CWD since 2005 -- when the first infected free-ranging deer was found in Cheyenne County -- all have been white-tailed deer.

The mule deer were in Norton and Decatur counties, Hesting said.

CWD is an always fatal brain-wasting disease.

Although there's been no evidence that the disease can jump from deer to humans, wildlife officials have cautioned hunters to be careful, avoiding specific parts of a deer known to contain the prions that cause the disease, and to wear gloves when cleaning a deer. They've also suggested against eating deer that are known to be infected.

In the latest round of testing, Hesting said the nine presumptive positives came from Decatur County -- the hot bed of activity for the disease -- as well as Norton, Graham, Sherman and Smith counties. Decatur County has had six presumptive positives this year.

Infected deer have never before been found in Norton or Sherman counties, although other cases have been found relatively close.

The Sherman sample, he said, was in the northern part of the county, not far from the Cheyenne County line.

Of the deer testing positive, all have been males, likely because bucks are coveted by hunters during the state's firearms season. Seven of the 10 were 31βΡ2 years old and two 21βΡ2 years old. The remaining deer was the yearling buck found in Smith County.

Hesting said the test results are considered presumptive because they first must be confirmed by a second round of testing in Ames, Iowa.

"I'm trying to get that removed," he said of the follow-up testing requirement at Ames. "So the Kansas State tests would be good enough."

Tests are conducted at the veterinary college in Manhattan, and positives are tested twice. If the second test comes back negative, the initial test is considered a false positive.

Of all the presumptive positives that have been forwarded on by KSU, all of them have been confirmed by tests conducted in Ames.

Hesting said most of the almost 2,500 samples have been processed, but batch results are on hold when one sample tests positive.

The 10 cases this year compares to the 10 found last year, 15 in 2009 and 10 in 2008.

"The number of positives don't seem to be changing," Hesting said, "but the distribution seems to be going east."