Chronic waste disease in the state of Mississippi, how you can help
By Tim Turner, 14th Civil Engineer Squadron
/ Published October 25, 2019
COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
The first documented case of Chronic Waste Disease (CWD) in the United States was in 1967, to this day, researchers are still baffled by the disease and many questions remain unanswered. The origin of CWD is unknown, but since its discovery in the U.S., the disease has spread to more than 22 states and two territories of Canada.
In February, 2018, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) announced the state’s first confirmed case of CWD. Since then, Mississippi has confirmed that 19 more deer have tested positive for CWD throughout the state.
It is unknown, at this time, how widespread the disease is among deer populations in Mississippi. MDWFP is asking that all deer hunters submit the heads of their harvested deer for testing. There is no fee for testing, and participation is not mandatory, but cooperation is greatly needed and encouraged. Currently, there are 21 drop-off locations established throughout the state. The nearest drop-off to Columbus Air Force Base is the Black Prairie Wildlife Management Area (WMA) located at 744 Fire Tower Rd., Crawford, MS 39743.
Traveling to and from drop-off locations and waiting on test results will be inconvenient for hunters, but it’s the best option to contain and prevent the spread of the disease.
What is CWD?
CWD is a prion (abnormal protein) disease, belonging to a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). CWD is only know to afflict cervids (i.e. deer family of animals). The disease is contagious among deer, causing a spongy degeneration of the brain in an infected animal. Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that CWD poses a risk to humans. However, health officials recommend that human exposure to CWD be avoided as they continue to study for any potential health risk.
What are the Symptoms?
The time from infection to death is slow, sometimes taking two years or more before taking its toll on the animal. Some known visible symptoms are weight loss, excessive drinking and urination, drooling, lowering of the head and walking in repetitive patterns, blank facial expressions, and grinding of the teeth. The most consistent and obvious symptom has been weight loss, which is why it is more commonly referred to as “wasting” disease. Once an animal has been infected with CWD, the end result is always fatal.
How is it Transmitted?
Infected animals can transmit the disease either through direct contact or indirect contact by way of saliva, feces, blood, and/or urine. CWD is known to be very resistant to the environment, remaining active in the soil, plants, and water for an unknown period. This allows the disease to spread to other deer that come into contact with the infected area. Once the disease occurs in an area, evidence shows eradication is unlikely. The movement of an infected deer is one of the greatest risk factors in spreading the disease to other herds or to another geographic area.
For more information on CWD and what you can do to help, please visit the MDWFP website at www.mdwfp.com.