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More chronic wasting disease confirmed in Idaho, this time in elk and white-tailed doe

by NICOLE BLANCHARD
| January 21, 2022 7:00 AM

The Idaho Statesman (TNS)

BOISE, Idaho — Chronic wasting disease, a fatal neurological condition that affects members of the deer family, has been confirmed in two more Idaho animals, Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials confirmed last week.

In a news release, Fish and Game said a cow elk and a white-tailed doe tested positive for the contagious disease. They were the fifth and sixth confirmed cases of chronic wasting disease in Idaho since the illness was first detected in two mule deer bucks in November. Two white-tailed deer bucks have also been confirmed to have CWD.

Chronic wasting disease is a prion disease in the same family as mad cow disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Chronic wasting disease, which is sometimes referred to as "zombie deer disease," is caused by malformed proteins that build up in the brain, leading to malnutrition, neurological issues and bizarre behavior.

According to Fish and Game, both animals were in hunting Unit 14, which is north of Riggins in Idaho County. It's the same unit where the four previous CWD-positive animals have been found. The agency said the white-tailed doe was four miles south of the Slate Creek area where previous cases were detected. The elk was about 1.5 miles northeast of White Bird.

After the initial two cases of chronic wasting disease were detected, Fish and Game set up a CWD management zone and surveillance area that includes hunting Unit 14 and neighboring units. The agency also set up surveillance hunts in December to better understand the prevalence and distribution of the disease.

Fish and Game said it had collected samples from about 550 animals in the surveillance area by Tuesday. The agency is still waiting on lab results for 10 samples collected during the surveillance hunts. There is no method for testing live animals for chronic wasting disease, so all samples must be collected from deceased animals. It wasn't immediately clear if the cow elk and white-tailed doe were killed as part of the surveillance hunts or died of other causes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges people not to eat any part of an animal that tests positive for chronic wasting disease. Fish and Game encourages hunters to exercise caution, including using gloves when processing harvested animals, avoiding handling animals that appear to be sick and having animals tested for chronic wasting disease if they're harvested in an area where the disease has been found.

Anyone who sees an animal they believe may have chronic wasting disease can report the sighting to Fish and Game online at idfg.idaho.gov/cwd