TN officials worry after the positive test of 183 deer for the "zombie" disease test

MEMPHIS, Tennessee – A wild animal epidemic has swept through the country this winter, and Tennessee officials say the "huge problem" will persist for a long time.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic wasting was detected in deer in 251 counties of 24 states. In Tennessee, 183 deer were tested positive – all but one were in Hardeman or Fayette counties.

Anthony Landreth, a Bolivar hunter in western Tennessee, found a deer during a hunt in southwestern Hardeman County, clearly suffering from the disease of the snow thistle.

"When I saw it for the first time, I thought," Man, this thing is sick, it's bad, "Landreth said of the deer he killed on January 20." It was just skin and bones. "

Indeed, he tested positive for CWD. He said he saw another deer a few days later standing in the water up to the waist in a pond, and he suspected that he was also suffering from MDC.

Locations of deer that have been tested positive for CWD in Tennessee.

The Tennessee Wildlife Agency (TWRA) on Wednesday reminded that it was forbidden to feed wild animals in much of western Tennessee, including in Shelby County, to because of the MDC.

Until now, there is no known case of transmission of the disease to humans, but the CDC recommends testing all dead deer so that they are safe. Jenifer Wisniewski, deputy director of communications with TWRA, said the issue was relatively new for Tennessee, but it was a problem that people needed to know.

"You can not kill him by cooking or anything like that," she said. "The prions (this type of disease) require about 7,000 degrees of heat before being killed, and the cold does not kill them either. He stays forever in the landscape because there is nothing that kills him. Once it's in a place, it'll be there.

The first deer that tested positive for CWD in Tennessee was found in December 2018 in Hardeman County. Wisniewski said that they have been testing deer in the state since 2002, but that it was the first confirmed case in that state.

After Marshall County, Mississippi, on the Tennessee border, had a positive test on deer, TWRA expanded its tests in nearby Fayette and Hardeman counties when they first discovered it. case.

Until now, Mississippi has had 15 confirmed cases of MDC. These were in the counties of Marshall, Benton, Lee, Panola, Tallahatchie, Issaquena and Warren. In 15 counties of Arkansas, 583 deer have been tested positive, and all are found in the northwestern part of the state.

A map showing all MDC cases confirmed in the United States from the CDC.

"It's tragic, but it's not an emergency that we have CWD," she said. "This is only a new hurdle that we will have to overcome and keep in our management plan."

She stated that it is illegal to transport deer carcasses beyond the boundaries of counties or states without verification of the MDC. Some states with higher MDC prevalence, such as Wyoming, have reported a decline of about 40% in the deer population, but it is too early to say whether the deer population is decreasing because of disease in Tennessee.

"People spread it by carrying deer from one place to another," Wisniewski said.

Wisniewski said that there was about a 8% chance that deer killed at Fayette or Hardeman would have CWD, but these areas are among the most densely populated deer in the state.

TWRA has extended the hunting season to Fayette and Hardeman from January 6 to 31 to allow hunters in these areas to collect more samples to test.

Landreth said it was not always clear if a deer had the MDC without testing it, but sometimes it's easy to know. The deer could be in a "zombie state" and not move in a situation where a normal deer would be fearful, or they could look lean and weak at an age when they should be full of meat and muscles .

"Once a deer becomes positive, they are almost all dead in two years," said Landreth, retired and spending most of his time hunting or fishing. "Some people can die faster than that. They could not really show the symptoms for a long time. But once they have symptoms, they do not last too long. "

He said that, still within the hunter community, there is a skepticism that the MDC is only a "ploy" or a "conspiracy" to obtain the "best of luck". money for the state, but Mr Landreth said that "it's so far from the truth".

"The MDC is a real disease, and the MDC is in Tennessee, and I think the MDC is here to stay because it has been around since 1967, when it was discovered in Colorado," he said.

Landreth said he knew that no case of CWD had been confirmed in humans, but that he would not take any chances.

"All the deer that I kill, I will pass a test from now, as long as TWRA will test it again," he said. "I will not eat another deer until it has been tested."

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