The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) today announced the first detection of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Lewis County, which is located in the west central part of the state.
The deer had been harvested by a hunter, and the TWRA said the detection will trigger changes in feeding and carcass transport regulations. Lewis County borders Wayne County, which is part of a CWD management zone. Lewis County also borders counties that are currently outside CWD management zones.
Last year, the TWRA and its lab partners tested 20,762 samples for CWD, which yielded 813 positives.
Cases now found in 17 counties
The TWRA has been conducting surveillance for CWD since 2002 and intensified its efforts in 2016 after CWD was found in neighboring Arkansas. The disease was identified in Tennessee for the first time in 2018. It has now been found in white-tail deer in 17 of Tennessee's 95 counties, though 2 are considered high-prevalence counties: Fayette and Hardeman.
CWD is a fatal prion disease, similar to bovine spongiform encephalopathy ("mad cow" disease). CWD causes progressive neurologic symptoms in deer and other cervids, such as elk and moose, that are exposed to the prions through direct contact or through contaminated environments.
No human cases have been reported, but health officials urge people to avoid eating meat from sick animals. and to take precautions when butchering the animals.