Chronic Wasting Disease in New Area in Utah

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Disease doesn't affect people, but it's fatal to deer.

A deer infected with chronic wasting disease has been found in a new area in Utah. That's not a surprise, though—the new area is next to an area where the disease has been for years.

An elk with Chronic Wasting Disease

An elk afflicted with chronic wasting disease.

Photo by Dr. Beth Williams

1,200 samples taken this fall

Technicians at the Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Logan have finished testing tissue samples taken from more than 1,200 deer, elk and moose this fall.

Hunters across Utah took the animals, and biologists with the Division of Wildlife Resources collected the samples.

One of the deer that was taken on the San Juan deer hunting unit in southeastern Utah tested positive for the disease. This is the first time a deer from the unit has tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD).

Leslie McFarlane, wildlife disease coordinator for the DWR, says she's not surprised that a deer from the San Juan unit tested positive for CWD. "We've found deer with CWD on the La Sal Mountains," she says. "The La Sal Mountains are just north of the San Juan unit."

Most deer are disease free

Fortunately for Utah's deer herds, CWD is not widespread in Utah.

Since 2002, almost 19,000 deer have been tested in the state. Of the nearly 19,000 deer, only 54 tested positive for CWD.

The 54 deer came from three major areas in Utah:

AreaNumber of deer
Southeastern Utah38
Central Utah10
Northeastern Utah6

One elk, no moose

To date, only one elk—a cow taken on the La Sal Mountains in November 2009—has tested positive for the disease.

CWD has never been found in a moose in Utah.

Learn more

CWD is fatal to deer, elk and moose. But there's no evidence that it can be transmitted to humans. More information about CWD is available at www.cwd-info.org and at go.usa.gov/wfU.