Chronic wasting disease

Any person witnessing a sick or dead deer or elk in Arkansas should call 800-482-9262 so that it may be tested for chronic wasting disease.

With 56 confirmed cases of chronic wasting disease found in northern Arkansas so far, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is widening its search to determine if it is in other parts of the state.

“Our first phase of CWD surveillance focused on determining disease prevalence rate,” said Cory Gray, AGFC deer program coordinator. “Once all samples have been received, we should be able to calculate prevalence rate for our survey area.”

The final results from the AGFC’s original testing phase should be complete soon, but biologists have already confirmed a larger instance of CWD than anticipated.

The second phase of CWD surveillance will be to determine how far the disease has travelled in the state. AGFC will take samples from any sick or dead deer reported throughout the state. A primary focus will be on road-killed animals.

“There’s no need to sacrifice possibly healthy animals for this phase, Samples taken from road kills have a greater chance of testing positive than random samples from healthy animals,” Gray said. “The presence of CWD can only be determined within a day or two of the animal’s death, so we need the public to call in and report any road-killed deer as soon as they see it.”

This second phase of testing will continue until at least May 20. Any person witnessing a sick or dead deer or elk should contact the AGFC’s radio room at 800-482-9262. Operators are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

CWD is a neurological disease that’s part of a group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. Once in a host’s body, prions transform normal cellular protein into abnormal shapes that accumulate until the cell ceases to function. 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.

The AGFC is holding weekly public meetings at Carroll Electric Cooperative, 511 E. Court St. in Jasper. The next meeting will be at 11 a.m., April 7.

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