State officials said evidence of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been found in Mississippi, making it the 25th state to confirm the presence of the deadly deer disease.
Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks reported a white-tailed deer collected on Jan. 25 in Issaquena County tested positive for CWD. The animal was a 4 1/2-year-old male that died of natural causes, the agency said.
As a result, supplemental feeding is banned in Claiborne, Hinds, Issaquena, Sharkey, Warren, and Yazoo counties, the state said.
Meanwhile, Alabama officials have ramped up their CWD safeguards after the Mississippi report.
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said Mississippi has been added to the list of states banned from importing body parts of cervid family animals (including white-tailed and mule deer, elk and moose) unless the meat is deboned and other regulations are followed.
"We've been warning about this for years, that this was not something that was fabricated, and we needed to do everything in our power to keep it out of Alabama," Chuck Sykes, director of Alabama's Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, said in a report in the Outdoor Alabama Weekly newsletter, which is produced by the agency. "Now it's hit home. It's real close now. What it means is we, as an agency, can only do so much. We can set regulations. It's up to the hunters to fulfill those regulations. That's why we've made a big media push to get the word out.
"We don't want people to panic, but we want people to be cognizant and understand that this is a major issue. It can be prevented, but it's going to take everybody participating."
Louisiana, which like Alabama is CWD-free, said it is monitoring the discovery and working with Mississippi on sampling and containment measures.
CWD was first found in captive mule deer in Colorado in 1967 and has since been found in 25 states. While fatal for deer, there is no evidence the disease can be contracted by humans.
Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks said in its news release that CWD has been found in free-ranging herds in 22 states.
According to the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance, CWD affects only cervids (hoofed animals in the cervidae family such as deer, elk, and moose). CWD affects the body's nervous system.
Once in the host's body, prions transform normal cellular protein into an abnormal shape that accumulates until the cell ceases to function. Infected animals begin to 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.
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