Chronic Wasting Disease 

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Chronic Wasting Disease in Arkansas

Chronic wasting disease was first detected in a 2½-year-old, hunter-harvested, female elk near Pruit, about 12 miles east of Ponca. The elk was shot Oct. 6, 2015, but the samples from that annual testing group were not confirmed CWD positive until Feb. 23, 2016. 

CWD was confirmed in Arkansas's white-tailed deer herd March 8, 2016, when a 2½-year-old female deer that was found dead near Boxley Valley tested positive for the disease.

The AGFC has completed its first phase of CWD monitoring, and has confirmed that the disease has a prevalence of 23 percent in Newton and Boone counties. Of 266 randomly collected wild deer, 62 were found to have the fatal disease. 

Phase two of the CWD monitoring effort will be to determine how far the disease has spread in Arkansas. Wildlife biologists and wildlife officers across the state will collect road-killed deer and deer reported sick or dead from the public to test them for the disease. 

If you see a deer or elk you suspect of having CWD, please report it at cwdinfo@agfc.ar.gov or call 1-800-482-9262.

Map of known positive cases of CWD

Frequently Asked Questions about CWD 

What is Chronic Wasting Disease?
Answer

CWD is a neurological (brain and nervous system) disease found in deer, elk, moose and other members of the deer family. It is similar to mad cow disease in cattle and scrapie in sheep. The disease belongs to a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies or prion diseases. It is 100 percent fatal.

How is it spread?
Answer
The disease spreads through prions, abnormally shaped proteins. Studies have shown that the disease can be spread both directly (animal-to-animal contact) and indirectly (through soil or other surfaces). The most common mode of transmission from an infected animal is believed to be through saliva, feces and possibly other body secretions. There is strong evidence that people have helped spread the disease over long distances by moving live infected animals and infected carcasses.
Is it dangerous to humans?
Answer
Researchers with the Federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, along with the World Health Organization, have studied CWD and have found no evidence that CWD poses a serious risk to humans or domestic animals. Years of monitoring in affected areas has found no similar disease in people or cattle living there. However, as a precaution, CDC and the Arkansas Department of Health advise that no part of a deer or elk with evidence of CWD should be consumed by people or other animals.
Is it dangerous to livestock?
Answer
Researchers with the Federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, along with the World Health Organization, have studied CWD and have found no evidence that CWD poses a serious risk to humans or domestic animals. Years of monitoring in affected areas has found no similar disease in people or cattle living there. However, as a precaution, CDC and the Arkansas Department of Health advise that no part of a deer or elk with evidence of CWD should be consumed by people or other animals.
Why shouldn’t I eat certain parts of my deer and elk?
Answer
While research has shown that prions may be present in a wide variety of tissues and body fluids, including blood and muscle, they are most prevalent in the brain, eyes, spinal cord, lymph nodes, tonsils and spleen. Thus, it is recommended that hunters bone out harvested cervids in the field, and take extra precautions when handling organs where prions are most likely to accumulate.
How can you tell if a deer or elk has CWD?
Answer
Infected animals may not show any symptoms of the disease. In later stages of the disease, however, infected animals begin to lose control of bodily functions and display abnormal behavior such as staggering, standing with very poor posture or losing fear of humans. Infected animals lose weight rapidly, appear in very poor body condition and often stand in or near water and drink excessively. They may also exhibit drooling or excessive salivation. However, these symptoms can be found in other diseases affecting deer and elk.
What do I do if I see a deer or elk I suspect of having CWD?
Answer
Please report any deer or elk showing symptoms of CWD to the AGFC at chiefofwildlife@agfc.ar.gov.
How do you confirm presence of CWD?
Answer
There is no reliable live test for CWD. The only test approved by USDA APHIS is by testing lymph nodes and a portion of brain stem removed after the deer or elk is dead.
When and where has CWD been discovered?
Answer
Since its discovery in a captive mule deer in Colorado in 1967, CWD has been found in 23 other states and two Canadian provinces. A complete timeline of its spread is available at http://www.cwd-info.org/index.php/fuseaction/about.timeline.  
Where can I find out more information about CWD?
Answer
The Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance, a joint project of the Boone and Crockett Club, Mule Deer Foundation and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, has an extensive website devoted to CWD at www.cwd-info.org.  
When was CWD detected in Arkansas?
Answer
CWD was confirmed in elk from a sample tested by Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory as part of the AGFC’s annual CWD testing protocol. It was confirmed by the USDA APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Iowa, Feb. 23, 2016.
CWD was confirmed in a white-tailed deer from a sample tested by Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and confirmed by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory March 9, 2016.
Where did the positive cases come from?
Answer

The positive elk sample was taken from a 2.5-year-old cow elk taken during the 2015 public land elk hunt on the Buffalo River National Park near Pruitt, Arkansas.
The positive deer sample came from a 2.5-year-old whitetail doe found dead near the Ponca Elk Education Center in Boxley Valley.

What has the AGFC done to prevent CWD in Arkansas?
Answer
The AGFC has been very proactive in preventing CWD’s spread. The most likely method of transmission is through importation of live cervids and carcasses of cervids originating from CWD-positive states. The following list outlines some of the precautions the AGFC has implemented in recent decades to protect from this threat and check for the disease:
  • 1997 – Testing of elk harvested during Arkansas’s elk hunts began (more than 200 tested to date).
  • 1998 -- Testing of deer for chronic wasting disease began (more than 7,000 tested to date). 
  • 2002 – Importation of live cervids banned.
  • 2005 – Importation of cervid carcasses from CWD-positive states restricted to deboned meat, skins and cleaned skulls to reduce prion transmission.
  • 2006 – Moratorium enacted on breeder/dealer permits and commercial hunting resort permits for new cervid facilities.
  • 2012 – Cervid carcass importation restriction expanded to include any cervid from outside of Arkansas.
  • 2012 – Obtaining hand-captured white-tailed deer prohibited. Origin of such deer was extremely difficult to confirm.
What is the AGFC going to do now that CWD has been found in Arkansas?
Answer
The AGFC has had a response plan in place since 2006 in the event a deer or elk from Arkansas tested positive for the disease. According to that plan, the first step is to sample deer and elk from within 5 miles of the site where the infected animal was taken. The addition of a second positive CWD test from outside the 5-mile zone has caused the AGFC to expand that search zone to a 126,000-acre capsule. AGFC staff will work with landowners and other agencies to take 300 deer from this area to determine prevalence rate in the herd. Any elk showing symptoms of CWD will be removed from the herd and sampled for CWD to determine the range of the disease in elk and to help prevent further exposure to healthy animals. Once a prevalence rate is determined, regulations on harvest, sampling of checked animals and restrictions on transport of animals within this zone will be used to slow the spread of the disease.
What precautions should hunters take in preventing the spread of CWD?
Answer
The most likely transmission of CWD is through live animals and animals transported after harvest. The best way to help prevent its spread is to not transport any parts of deer or elk taken in from areas where Arkansas’s elk herd is found to other parts of the state. AGFC staff are working to define a CWD containment zone with special hunting regulations for the 2016-17 season. We do ask that landowners near Arkansas’s elk range not place any feed or bait as this concentrates deer and elk and can help spread the disease. If you have taken a deer or elk in this area in the last year, you can contact the AGFC at cwdinfo@agfc.ar.gov.
Can I get my deer from this year tested?
Answer
No. The only USDA APHIS-approved test for CWD analyzes lymph nodes and a portion of the animal’s brain stem. It cannot be positively detected in muscle tissue such as processed meat. The AGFC is preparing to sample the elk and deer herd near the site of the infected animal and will continue to monitor throughout the state. However, this is the only area in the state where CWD has been confirmed.