MDWFP detects first case of CWD in Lafayette

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, January 17, 2024

By Hunter Cloud
Brookhaven Daily Leader

Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks confirmed Lafayette County’s first detection of Chronic Wasting Disease in a deer harvested northwest of Abbeville.

The positive is one of several this week which helped MDWFP set a deer season record for positive detections.

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Lafayette County was already in a Chronic Wasting Disease management zone due to nearby positives in Panola and Marshall counties.

Chronic Wasting Disease is 100 percent always fatal to deer and other members of the cervid family. CWD is caused by an infectious prion which eats away at neurologic tissue. The Center for Disease Control states there have been no cases of CWD infecting people but recommends not eating meat from CWD positive animals.

Hunter harvested samples are needed to detect the disease and implement mitigation strategies before it is too late. Samples submitted by hunters in Lafayette County can help the department determine how prevalent the disease is and mitigate the spread by taking potentially sick deer off of the landscape.

CWD samples can be dropped off at self serve coolers around the state or participating taxidermists. The closest drop-off cooler in Lafayette County is in Oxford at Fire Station 1 located at 401 McElroy Drive.

MDWFP reports 5,576 samples have been submitted for Chronic Wasting Disease testing since the opening day of September Velvet Season. Mississippi started off Fiscal Year 2024 with 207 positives since first detection and is now up to 283.

The 76 positive detections to date set a record for most positives in a sampling year beating last year by three positive detections with several more weeks left in the deer season and more results pending at this time. MDWFP deer program coordinator William McKinley said the positives have shown a trend of CWD spreading.

“The disease is spreading and many of our positives this year are outside of the polygon of last year’s samples. They are on the perimeter,” McKinley said. “The disease continues to spread and likely exists in counties where it remains undetected.”

Lafayette, Harrison and DeSoto counties detected Chronic Wasting Disease for the first time in 2024. Harrison and Lafayette’s positives were confirmed by secondary method of testing and DeSoto County’s positive is currently off of for confirmation and is considered a suspect positive until then.

McKinley said the DeSoto suspect positive was a doe showing clinical symptoms, which are exhibited after 12 to 18 months of first infection. Most CWD positive deer do not show visible signs of CWD and of the 76 positives this year only three showed symptoms according to hunters, McKinley said.

Mississippi State University’s Veterinary Research and Diagnostic Laboratory in Pearl tests samples for Chronic Wasting Disease. Samples are tested three times if they come back positive. McKinley said he has been pleased with how swiftly the lab has gotten results back to the agency so they can let hunters know.