TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State wildlife officials say chronic wasting disease has spread to six counties in southwest Kansas.
The disease, which is fatal to deer and elk, had already been found in three northwest Kansas counties. So far, the contagious, neurological disease has not been passed to humans or livestock.
The Wichita Eagle reports counties where new cases of the disease have been found are Gray, Hodgeman, Kearny, Pawnee, Meade and Scott, with one diseased deer each. One deer tested positive for the disease in Decatur, Norton and Rawlins counties in northwest Kansas last fall.
Shane Hesting, wildlife disease coordinator with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, said nine of the about 600 deer tested carried the disease. Most of the deer were shot by hunters, who have been urged not to eat the venison.
The disease, which is mostly contained in the central nervous system and bones, is passed from animal to animal through saliva and feces. It can contaminate soil in an area for years.
According to Hesting, 73 deer have tested positive for the disease in Kansas since 2005. He said the deer from the six southwest Kansas counties that tested positive came from a small test sample of 213.
“It's a small sample size, so the prevalence is probably higher than we expected in that part of the state,” he said.
Wildlife and Parks big game program coordinator Lloyd Fox says that the disease has not had much of an impact on Kansas' deer population, but that may change.
“The first few years, we see little impact, but most of us think it will, in decades, have to have a population effect as the environment becomes more contaminated,” he said. “When that happens, populations won't jump back quickly from this. It's a terrible disease.”
Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com