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It’s been almost three years since Mississippi had its first confirmed case of Chronic Wasting Disease in white-tailed deer. Because the disease can be detrimental to the state’s white-tailed deer population, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife has issued practices aimed at protecting the state’s deer population.
During the 2020-2021 deer hunting season, dates have been set aside to mandatory CWD sampling. For Walthall County, all deer harvested in the county on Jan. 2-3 must be submitted to a temporary freezer for the Southwest Region, set up at Southwest Events Center Arena, 29 Hwy 48 East, in order to be tested.
MDWFP is trying to determine the extent and prevalence of the disease and is asking hunters to aid by submitting deer for testing during the white-tailed deer hunting season. The state is also asking hunters and landowners to help monitor for CWD by actively seeking out and reporting potential diseased or sick deer.
Cooperation of hunters and the public is important to MDWFP’s efforts of providing a quality white-tailed deer popultion statewide, while offering maximum outdoor recreational opportunity to the public without negatively affecting the resource. The state’s deer population is estimated at 1.75 million with hunters harvesting approximately 280,000 deer annually.
In February 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratory confirmed the first positive Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) test for a sample collected from a deer within Mississippi, a 4-year-old buck who died from the disease Jan. 21. A biologist collected the specimen on Jan. 25 and MDWFP received the results Feb. 9, releasing the information to the public on the same day.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there have been no reported cases of CWD infection in humans. But there have been studies that suggest CWD poses a risk to some types of non-human primates, like monkeys, that eat meat from CWD infected animals or come in contact with brain or body fluids from infected deer or elk.
These studies have raised concerns that there may be a risk to people. Since 1997, the World Health Organization has recommended to keep the agents of all known prion diseases from entering the human food chain.
CWD is caused by a contagious, fatal prion, or abnormal protein, that affects members of the deer family such as white-tailed deer, elk and mule deer.
After CWD occurs in an area, evidence shows it doesn’t go away on its own. To manage the impact on the deer population, MDWFP recommends aggressive intervention.
To minimize potential environmental and human exposure to CWD, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks recommends following Best Management Practices (BMP) while handling carcasses and processing meat from white-tailed deer. A list of those practices and more extensive information concerning CWD can be obtained by going to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks website at MDWFP.com/cwd.