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Mule deer.

BOISE - The Idaho Department of Fish and Game announced the first detection of chronic wasting disease in mule deer in Idaho on Nov. 17.

The fatal disease is caused by a prion, a type of infectious protein, that affects the nervous system of deer, elk, reindeer, and moose. The prion protein is primarily in certain tissues in the animal, including eye, brain, spinal cord, and lymph nodes. Animals may not appear ill early in the infection.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been no reports of the disease in people. However, in the interest of safety, public health officials are encouraging Idaho residents to follow these precautions and recommendations:

  • Do not shoot, handle, or eat tissue from any animal that appears sick; contact the IDFG if you see or have harvested an animal that appeared sick.
  • During field dressing, use rubber or latex gloves and minimize handling of brain, spinal cord, eyes, or lymph nodes; use equipment solely dedicated for dressing game (avoid using household knives or utensils); and always wash hands and utensils thoroughly after dressing and processing game meat.
  • Bone out the carcass to remove organs most likely to contain prions.
  • Contact any Idaho Fish and Game regional office for CWD testing, especially if you harvested an animal from an area where CWD has been found. Wait for test results before eating the meat.
  • Request your animal be processed individually to avoid mixing its meat with other animals.
  • Avoid eating any tissue harvested from an animal that is positive for CWD.

Chronic Wasting Disease has been found in free-ranging and captive deer, moose, and elk populations in approximately half of all U.S. states, including Montana, Wyoming, and Utah, as well as four Canadian provinces.

For questions about the disease, visit the CDC website or contact The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Epidemiology Section at 208-334-5939 or your local public health district. For questions about hunting guidance and carcass management, contact the IDFG Wildlife health Lab at 208-939-9171.