JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Deer hunters are being warned about Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD, which has been likened to mad cow disease.
It’s been found in deer in nearly half the U.S. and wildlife experts in the Southeast want to make sure it doesn’t make it here.
So far, no human cases have been detected and there have been no cases detected in deer in Florida or Georgia. But local wildlife experts are urging hunters to take extra precautions.
Antibiotics don’t kill it. Cooking doesn’t kill it. That’s why CWD is a growing concern in the hunting community.
“It’s spreading from deer to deer where it’s found but what we want to prevent is the spread to new areas altogether. Once you get this disease in the environment, you’ve got it forever,” said Charlie Killmaster, a deer biologist with the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division.
According to the CDC, as of September of this year, there were 181 counties in 21 states where CWD has been found.
The CDC is urging hunters to not handle or eat meat from deer or elk that look sick, are acting strange, or are found dead. They also suggest using latex gloves when handling the meat.
“It’s all about prevention. They’ve found it can remain infectious in the soil for in excess of a decade,” said Killmaster.
In both Florida and Georgia, it is illegal to bring in a full deer or elk carcass from any of the states or counties where CWD has been found. It’s also illegal to bring any live deer back into the two states.
Experts say if the disease makes it to Florida, FWC staff has a team and response plan in place to take action quickly.
New research shows the disease has been able to be spread to monkeys through contaminated meat, leading to more concern it could eventually spread to humans the same way.