By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

The first case of chronic wasting disease -- hailing from a white-tailed deer killed in Decatur County -- has been confirmed by two rounds of testing.

It's the first positive result out of about 90 samples tested at Kansas State University by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

The test was later confirmed by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, according to Shane Hesting, wildlife disease coordinator for KDWP.

The infected deer was a 31βΡ2-year-old male taken in Decatur County by an archery hunter on Nov. 7.

Ironically, Hesting said, it was taken by a hunter who two years ago killed another deer that also was infected.

So far, Kansas has confirmed the presence of CWD -- an always-fatal, brain-wasting disease -- in 31 animals since 1996.

The first instance was found in a captive deer herd in south-central Kansas.

The first free-ranging deer infected with the disease was found in 2005 in Cheyenne County.

Although no infected deer were found in 2006, sampling in 2007 uncovered three Decatur County deer with the disease. Ten deer tested positive in 2008 and another 15 in 2009.

All of the infected deer have been found in northwest Kansas, and most have come from Decatur County.

So far, 18 deer in Decatur County have tested positive for CWD, putting it head-and-shoulders above other locations in the state. Rawlins County, for example, has only had four cases.

The positive test came from a deer killed in the Sappa Creek area, much as the others have.

"This deer was killed by a hunter who killed a positive two years ago," Hesting said. The latest deer was about 10 miles north of the area where the first infected deer was killed.

Because the positive sample comes from a deer killed during the archery season, there's plenty left to test.

The bulk of the samples collected come from the state's rifle season, and have yet to work through the K-State Veterinary Lab.

Hesting, however, said a breakdown in equipment used to test the samples had slowed the progress. That particular piece of equipment, he said, was expected to be fixed yet this week, allowing the testing to resume.

"I wish it was faster for the hunters," he said, "but I can't speed up anymore."

It's just a time-intensive process, with lab technicians required to cut out a specific number of samples from the lymph nodes that are collected, which must then be treated with a chemical. The broken-down equipment measures a specific color that indicates the presence of CWD.

When a presumptive-positive result is indicated at K-State, the sample is then forwarded on to the lab in Iowa, which performs yet another test to confirm the presence of the disease.

Overall, Hesting said the number of samples collected through the KDWP-sponsored sampling program is down this year, in part due to some areas reporting reduced kills.

So far, only about 2,000 samples have been collected, about 500 fewer than last year.

But, he said, more than 300 came from a deer-thinning project in Shawnee County.

The northwest district, where the positive samples have come from, only produced about 400 samples, Hesting said he was told.

While that's short of the almost 460 that's wanted for adequate test results, Hesting said he's extended the sampling period for some areas through June to cover road-killed deer.

By the time June ends, he said, it's likely there will be an adequate number of samples taken.