Chronic wasting disease has been found in three white-tailed deer from a Newaygo County deer farm, making it the fifth farm in Michigan to have been found carrying the disease. All three infected deer were four-year-olds.
CWD is a fatal neurological disease affecting white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. It can be transmitted between animals, as well as within the environment. An infected deer will have a “zombie-like” appearance, including abnormal behavior, weight loss and physical debilitation, according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural and Development.
CWD is considered a “prion disease,” rather than a bacterial or viral disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prions are “abnormal, pathogenic agents” that induce abnormal folding of certain proteins founds mostly in the brain. CWD is similar to Mad Cow Disease and scrapie, which is found in sheep and goats.
Although there is no known case of it being transmitted to humans, officials warn that infected animals should not be consumed for food by humans or domestic animals.
The samples from the Newaygo County deer farm were submitted as part of routine testing and an investigation will be conducted to ensure that the disease has not spread to other farmed deer. CWD has not yet been detected among free-ranging deer in the area.
“Chronic wasting disease is a serious disease affecting both farmed and free-ranging deer,” said State Veterinarian Nora Wineland in a statement. “MDARD and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources work together, in partnership with the state’s deer farmers, to ensure the protection of all of Michigan’s deer.”
CWD was first found among free-ranging deer populations in 2015, although it has been detected in four privately-owned cervid facilities since 2008. A deer with the debilitating illness was first found in the Upper Peninsula in 2018.
The disease has also caused turmoil over deer baiting, with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently vetoing a bill that would have overturned a ban on deer baiting. Banning or limiting deer baiting can help prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease, according to Whitmer.
For more information about chronic wasting disease and its spread, visit here.
Jordyn Pair is a reporter with Battleground State News and The Michigan Star. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair. Email her at [email protected]