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Two more deer confirmed to have chronic wasting disease

Mar 18, 2016

Since May of last year, Michigan has now had seven deer test positive for chronic wasting disease.

The two latest cases come out of Ingham and Clinton Counties. Officials with the Department of Natural Resources have been testing deer across the state, having checked around 4,900 animals so far.

Deer program specialist Chad Stewart said he's not ready to call this an "outbreak" yet, but the findings aren't great. 

"It is disheartening that we keep finding more positives because the more we find the more likely that the disease becomes established," he said.

Stewart said the department is tracking the deer population carefully. While he doesn't have a specific number of deer in mind that would qualify as an outbreak, he said the disease may be widespread. 

"There's no magic number in play, certainly," he said. "We're dealing with multiple positives at multiple locations so the likelihood that it's starting to trend toward becoming established is certainly more apparent."

Steve Schmitt, a veterinarian with the DNR, is familiar with other states that have had outbreaks. He says there are likely more positive cases out in the wild already.

"In most cases the disease is spreading and the percent positive is increasing," he said. "Finding two more deer is, obviously, not a good thing." 

Chronic wasting disease, or CWD, is a fatal neurological disease that occurs in deer, elk, and moose. It is not transmittable to humans, the DNR reports.

Stewart said the implications of an outbreak are long-term, and could diminish the deer population over many years.

While the DNR often works to control the deer population, Stewart said CWD is unpredictable, and it's better to eliminate the disease from the population.