Chris Lawrence Slanesville
West Virginia MetroNews
Seven more deer sampled in Hampshire County test positive for Chronic Wasting Disease. Since it was first discovered in a road-killed deer near Slanesville in 2005, the DNR has been aggressively targeting the dangerous virus. To date, 45 deer taken from the containment zone have tested positive.
"Within the area where we've picked up most of our positives, in other words where we think the disease is most prevalent, we're looking at an infection rate of somewhere around six-percent," said DNR Game Management Supervisor Paul Johansen.
The containment zone is a radius established around the initial discovery. Although there have been a few infected whitetails found outside that radius, most of the concentration has remained fairly close to the center of that area.
Johansen says there's very little that can be done to eradicate CWD, but their efforts appear to be having an impact on at least slowing its spread.
"Where chronic wasting disease is established, it's very, very difficult if not impossible to completely eliminate it from an area," said Johansen. "But you can take steps and certain management strategies that you can put in place. We've tried to throw everything we have at this disease in Hampshire County."
Those tools include a ban on feeding and baiting of deer in the zone. This is helping to prevent concentrations of high numbers of deer in a single spot. The agency has also liberalized the antlerless season in the zone, eliminating large numbers of the deer there every year. Plus the DNR is keeping a close eye on every move. Deer are killed in the spring as well as the fall as part of surveying to find any that are infected.
Johansen says it's not necessarily good news, but seven new positives isn't a surprise either. Other states with outbreaks of CWD, particularly in the western United States have seen a rapid spread over vast geographic locations. That hasn't happened in West Virginia for the time being. Johansen says another unique feature of the West Virginia outbreak is the fact that none of those deer, which tested positive, exhibited any signs they were sick.
"That's rather interesting," said Johansen. "To date we have not detected a single animal that has exhibited the classic symptoms for chronic wasting disease."
During the terminal phase of CWD deer become disoriented, confused, and lethargic. They'll also grow exceedingly thin and poor, hence the name Chronic Wasting. Johansen says all of the positive samples in West Virginia are actually in very good shape and the only indication they were sick was a lab test.