Chronic Wasting disease found in Mecosta County deer not out of the ordinary

CWD in farmed deer won’t spread outside enclosure, ‘not an increase’ overall, expert says

FILE - Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife assistant Mark Bash extracts lymph nodes from a buck for chronic wasting disease testing.

FILE - Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife assistant Mark Bash extracts lymph nodes from a buck for chronic wasting disease testing.

John Pepin/Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources

MECOSTA COUNTY — The case of a fatal mad cow-like disease at a Mecosta County farm is not out of the ordinary.

According to a press release from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the infected deer was on a cervid farm in an enclosed space. MDARD did not release the name of the farm. No wild deer have tested positive for the disease in Mecosta County.

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal disease that affects a deer’s nervous system. Symptoms include tremors, head hanging, and paralysis, according to MDARD. But it can go without symptoms for years, which makes it hard to spot.

Each year, CWD cases are like a roll of the dice, said Dr. Jennifer Calogero, assistant veterinarian for MDARD. So far this year, there have been ten total cases of CWD in Michigan — six more than 2021.

“We can go no years with very little, and other years we can see some samples that end up testing positive," she said. "I would not say we’re seeing an increase by any means.”

Farmed deer are tightly controlled in an enclosed space with required routine surveillance testing for the disease, she said.

"The farmed deer do not interact with the wild deer," Calogero said. "Because they do not interact with the free-ranging or wild deer, the detection in the farm population should not impact the free-ranging and vice versa."

According to the DNR’s website, it recommends hunters should take the head of a killed deer to a checking station and be prepared to report where the deer was shot. If the deer is infected with CWD, hunters are “advised to debone their meat and dispose of the bones, especially the spine.”