Chronic Wasting Disease Confirmed In Deer At Ponca

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LITTLE ROCK (KFSM) -- A white-tailed deer recently tested positive for chronic wasting disease, according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

CWD is fatal to deer and elk.

The positive CWD test from a deer comes after an elk near Pruitt was confirmed to have the disease Feb. 23. Both areas are in northern Newton County.

The AGFC took tissue samples from the two-and-a-half-year-old female deer, which was found dead.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, confirmed the test on Wednesday.

To determine the prevalence and distribution of the disease in the deer population, the AGFC will begin taking samples Monday in an area ranging from five miles west of Ponca to five miles east of Pruitt and five miles across.

The commission will have to sample 300 deer to determine the prevalence and spatial distribution of CWD in the population. Wildlife biologists will also sample elk in the area.

The sampled animals will be processed at a base camp staffed by AGFC and National Park Service personnel. Meat from the dear that don't test positive for CWD will be given to landowners where the deer were harvested or to Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry. Since only only unhealthy elk will be harvested, meat from those animals will not be consumed. Everything that is not packaged for consumption will be incinerated.

The public can report sick deer and elk by calling 800-482-9262, 24 hours a day.

Although there are no confirmed cases of CWD transmission from cervids to humans or to livestock, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the Arkansas Department of Health recommend that people not consume meat from animals known to be infected with CWD.

Biologists don’t know how the disease reached northern Arkansas at this point. The AGFC has taken several steps to prevent the disease from entering the state.

CWD affects only cervids, so animals such as deer, elk and moose. Research shows prions, which are abnormal cellular proteins, are transmitted through feces, urine and saliva. Once in the host's body, prions transform normal cellular protein into abnormal shapes that causes the cell to stop functioning. As the brains of infected animals degenerate, they lose weight, lose their appetite and develop an insatiable thirst.

They tend to stay away from herds, walk in patterns, carry their head low, salivate and grind their teeth.

Two meetings have been scheduled in Ponca and Huntsville to discuss the most recent finding of CWD. The first meeting will be held in Ponca on Thursday, March 10. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the Ponca Fire Department on Arkansas Highway 43. The second meeting will be held on Friday, March 11 at Carroll Electric, 5056 Highway 412B in Huntsville. This meeting will begin at 6 p.m.