Chronic Wasting Disease has been detected for the first time in a wild deer in Iowa. The animal which tested positive was shot by a hunter in northeast Iowa’s Allamakee County back in early December.
Iowa Department of Natural Resources spokesman Kevin Baskins says his agency just recently learned the deer tested positive for CWD. Baskins says obtaining the results took a long time as labs that do the testing are processing samples from across the country.
CWD is a neurological disease affecting primarily deer and elk. It’s fatal for the animals, but there is currently no evidence that humans can contract CWD by eating venison.
Baskins notes they’ve only found one deer with the disease and it was shot along the Mississippi River. Across the river, in Wisconsin, is an area where CWD has been common. “So, it really wasn’t that far away from us to begin with,” Baskins says. “I guess if we were going to find it in Iowa, that would be a location that we would not be as surprised about because of the proximity in Wisconsin to CWD.”
The disease is caused by an abnormal protein, called a prion that attacks the brains of infected animals. Baskins says the challenge in controlling the spread of CWD surrounds the fact that prions can get in the soil and remain there for a long time. “So, obviously, the more understanding we have as to what area may have infected deer allows us to decide what is going to be the best course of action down the road for hopefully containing it and limiting the exposure as much as possible in that white-tailed deer population,” Baskins says.
The DNR has been testing for CWD in Iowa’s deer herd for more than a decade. This is the first positive CWD detection in a wild deer in Iowa. It’s previously been detected in every state bordering Iowa.