Hunters in Madison County have some extra regulations this year.

Chronic wasting disease, a contagious progressive, neurologic disease of deer, elk and moose was confirmed in a deer harvested in November 2018 in Culpeper County. The disease has been detected in Virginia deer population of Frederick and Shenandoah Counties since 2009. The slow progressing and fatal disease is present in 26 states and three Canadian provinces. The presence of a confirmed case over 40 miles from the areas where CWD has was previously detected has triggered the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to designate Culpeper, Madison and Orange counties as a disease management area.

The disease management area designation means that testing for the 2019-2020 season has been ramped up and some additional regulations are in place. The DGIF DMA2 requires that any whole deer carcasses and high-risk deer parts not be transported out of the area. All deer harvested Nov. 16 have to be taken to one of the 10 locations in the region for mandatory CWD testing. In Madison County the two sites are Hidden Pines Meat Processing and The Little Country Store in Etlan. Voluntary testing is available for any deer harvested within the DMA at six locations. Hunters need to bring the head and at least four inches of neck to one of the six drop sites.

CWD is believed to be spread through feces, saliva and urine of infected animals. The disease is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy caused by misfolded proteins called prions. The disease is similar to bovine spongiform encephalopathy or mad cow disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans and scrapie in sheep. Symptoms of the progressive and fatal disease include weight loss, behavior changes, excessive salivation and death. It often takes several months for infected animals to show symptoms. While there is no evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans, livestock and pets, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention advises hunters to test all animals from a known disease area and not to consume meat from any animals that test positive for the disease.

Dr. Daniel Ferrell, epidemiologist for the Rappahannock-Rapidan region of the Virginia Department of Health advises caution.

“There are no known cases of humans contracting CWD but there is growing concern about the disease,” said Ferrell. “There’s a lot we don’t know about it, so several agencies are doing research on the disease now.”

Dr. Brandy Darby, veterinary epidemiologist for the Virginia Department of Health and member of a multi-agency board dedicated to monitoring CWD agreed.

“To date, there is no evidence that CWD is capable of infecting humans, though research is ongoing,” said Darby. The CDC strongly recommends against consuming meat from infected animals. Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries strongly supports that and we strongly encourage hunters in the disease management areas to take advantage of the free voluntary testing.”

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