KDWP&T reports 3 new CWD cases

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

With only about a third of the samples tested, three new cases of chronic wasting disease have been found among deer killed during the state's hunting season.

The cases were found in deer killed in Wallace, Decatur and Rawlins counties, according to Shane Hesting, disease coordinator of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.

With the latest three, Kansas now has had 42 cases of CWD, a brain-wasting, always-fatal, disease in free-ranging deer.

About 2,400 samples were taken from deer killed during the state's various deer-hunting seasons, and Hesting said the testing now stands at 38 percent of what was collected.

While the discovery of new cases of the disease comes as no surprise, Hesting said the states won't be receiving federal money to continue the testing program in upcoming seasons.

"... U.S. Department of Agriculture funding will not be available for collecting and testing samples next season," Hesting said. "Without federal financial assistance, surveillance will be very limited and less robust."

Hesting previously has expressed concern about losing the USDA money to sample for the disease, but was holding out hope federal officials might have a change of heart.

With the loss of funding, Hesting expected the testing program to be scaled back.

"We'll do something," he said earlier.

Still, he's worried the sample size might be small enough to lose some of the statistical confidence of the program, or change the thrust of the testing to focus on deer that appear to be sick.

"You test your deer more vulnerable and most likely to have CWD," Hesting said earlier.

Road-killed deer might be more vulnerable to CWD, but are not considered to be any more valuable for testing for the disease.

Of the 39 CWD-positive deer tested since 2005, only two appeared to be sick.

In the case of the three latest discoveries, Wallace is a county where CWD has not been found before. However, there's not been anyone there to collect samples for KDWP&T.

Rawlins previously has had four deer found to be infected with CWD.

Decatur County, however, with one new infection, continues to lead the state. Currently, it has had 23 deer found to be infected with CWD.

Based on testing samples, Hesting estimates there's at least a 6 percent rate of infection for that county.

Most of the infected deer there have been killed northeast of Oberlin, along Sappa Creek.

The first case of CWD in free-ranging deer was discovered in 2005 in Cheyenne County.

CWD is in a class of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, and is similar to mad cow disease.

While there's no indication the disease can spread to humans or cattle, wildlife officials recommend hunters wear rubber gloves while field-dressing a deer, and avoid using a bone saw to cut through brain or spinal cord. Meat should be boned out.