CWD. It's an acronym that most of us in Louisiana were essentially unfamiliar with until the past decade.

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It stands for Chronic Wasting Disease and in the past few years, Louisiana's deer hunters have become all too familiar with this untreatable, contagious, deer killing disease.

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getty images
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The USGS Says CWD Was Actually Discovered In North America In 1967

According to the USGS, "Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal, neurological illness occurring in North American cervids (members of the deer family), including white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and moose. Since its discovery in 1967, CWD has spread geographically and increased in prevalence locally.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries writes that it can take one to two years for CWD to incubate and exhibit outward symptoms in the infected animal.

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David De Lossy
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It's A Terrible Way For The Deer To Expire

Symptoms include emaciation, lethargy, abnormal behavior, and loss of bodily functions. Other signs include excessive salivation, loss of appetite, progressive weight loss, excessive thirst and urination, teeth grinding, and drooping ears.

CWD, however, is not known to affect humans or domesticated animals, but the Centers For Disease Control recommends caution in handling venison in infected regions and that deer be tested for CWD before consuming. CWD-positive deer should not be consumed by people.

Photo by Gary McCoy
Photo by Gary McCoy
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Louisiana Has Now Seen A Rise To 19 Confirmed Cases of CWD

Deer herds in some states have been extremely compromised by CWD with devastating losses and though Louisiana is far from seeing a massive outbreak, nola.com writes that we have now seen a total of 19 confirmed cases of CWD here in the Bayou State.

Since July 2023, state officials have collected approximately 2,300 samples, the majority of those from deer killed by hunters. Five samples had been confirmed positive as of Jan. 23, with more expected from samples collected before Jan. 31, which was the end of deer season in the northeast part of the state.

SteveOehlenschlager from Thinkstock
SteveOehlenschlager from Thinkstock
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Since the original discovery of CWD in 2022, LDWF designated a CWD “control area,” which includes all of Tensas Parish and parts of Madison, Franklin and Concordia parishes.   According to State Wildlife Veterinarian Jim LaCour,  “We’re getting more and more samples in a more and more concentrated area, and we’re kind of zeroing in on the main area of the CWD infection of deer in Louisiana.”

Of course, with the possible two year incubation period for CWD, we could soon see many more cases and possibly in a more widespread area.  Certainly deer hunters will need to be vigilant in having animals tested and staying alert for sightings of animals displaying symptom like behavior followed by immediate reporting to officials.

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