NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) — Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officials said seven more deer have tested positive in the last month for Chronic Wasting Disease and a sharp rise in cases is expected.
Five harvested during August, one roadkill and one reported sick all tested positive for CWD. TWRA expects a sharp rise in the number of cases and for several counties to become "high-risk" for the disease.
Chronic Wasting Disease is a deadly neurological disease that attacks the nervous systems of white-tailed deer and other species, like mule deer, elk and moose. There's currently no treatment or vaccine for the disease that was discovered in Tennessee in 2018.
It's illegal to import whole deer carcasses and specific body parts of any species of deer into either state. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency tells FOX 17 News the import ban is part of a larger effort throughout the country to keep from spreading Chronic Wasting Disease.
“Our greatest allies in the fight against CWD are hunters,” said Chuck Yoest, CWD coordinator for TWRA. “With hunters’ assistance we can help keep CWD from spreading, keep the number of diseased deer to a minimum, and reduce disease rates where possible.”
Under the import ban, no one is allowed to import, transport or have a carcass or body part from any species of deer harvested anywhere outside either state without properly processing it. However, hunters may import the following in Alabama and Tennessee: deer meat that has been completely deboned; cleaned skull plates with attached antlers, if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; raw capes, if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; upper canine teeth, if no root structure or other soft tissue is present; and finished taxidermy products or tanned hides. Velvet antlers are illegal to import into Alabama unless they are part of a finished taxidermy product.
Similar restrictions are also in place for other southern states as the threat of Chronic Wasting Disease continues.
Chronic Wasting Disease is in the family of "rare progressive neurodegenerative disorders that affect both humans and animals." There's currently no evidence to suggest the disease poses a risk to humans or domestic animals, but it is 100 percent fatal to deer and elk. Hunters who notice deer or elk acting strangely, looking sick, or found dead are urged to call their regional TWRA offices.
The disease is ultimately caused by a mutated protein called a prion. Deer infected with CWD serve as a carrier for the protein that sheds into the environment through saliva, urine, blood, soft-antler material and feces. At this time, there are no known strategies to lessen the risk of spreading the disease once an area has been contaminated. The TWRA called eradication of CWD, "very difficult, if not impossible."
Find information and resources on Chronic Wasting Disease here.