The Missouri Department of Conservation is increasing testing of deer for chronic wasting disease after the discovery this spring of 86 cases in Northern Arkansas. No CWD cases had been found there until this year. MDC Biologist Barbara Keller says the department is concerned about the number of positive cases in Arkansas.

White-Tailed deer (photo courtesy; Missouri Department of Conservation/Noppadol Paothong)

White-Tailed deer (photo courtesy; Missouri Department of Conservation/Noppadol Paothong)

“Jumping from zero detected to 86 is quite a jump,” said Keller. “That amount of prevalence that they’re seeing suggests that they have indeed had CWD for some time and just did not detect it.”

The department is testing sick and dead deer for the disease in the southern Missouri counties of Barry, Christian, Douglas, Ozark, Stone and Taney.

“To date through our statewide surveillance in southern Missouri since 2002, we’ve sampled over 51,000 deer and we’ve detected no CWD positive deer in the southern region of the state,” said Keller. “We can’t say that for certain that we don’t have CWD there, but we don’t think that we have it to the prevalence that they are recording in Northern Arkansas.”

There have been 27 confirmed cases of CWD in Missouri, with one positive case each in Linn and Franklin counties this year.

Missouri’s first case of the disease was found in Linn County in 2010. Keller says CWD is fatal to deer and is spread through saliva, feces and contact with carcasses.

“CWD is more prevalent in western North America than in the Midwest, but it’s gradually starting to creep eastward,” said Keller.

The disease is said to pose no threat to humans. It is considered a threat to the deer hunting industry.