The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reports the confirmation of a case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in a road-killed 4.5-year-old female white-tailed deer in Holmes County.
This is the first known case of CWD in Florida, a contagious disease of the brain and central nervous system that is fatal to deer.
Florida is the most recent of 31 states to detect the disease, which also has been confirmed in four Canadian provinces, Finland, Norway, Sweden and South Korea.
Currently, there is no scientific evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans or livestock under natural conditions. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do not recommend consuming meat from animals that test positive for CWD or from any sick animal.
CWD is a contagious disease believed to be caused by an abnormal protein called a prion. It is a fatal disease for all members of the deer family and is currently documented in white-tailed deer, mule deer, sika deer, elk, moose and caribou. Signs of the disease usually appear 1.5 to 3 years after initial exposure and can include extreme weight loss and abnormal behaviors such as listlessness, lowering of the head, inattentiveness toward people, walking in circles, staggering and standing with a wide stance.
Controlling the spread of CWD is difficult once it becomes established in a natural population. Because prions shed by infected deer persist in the environment, the best chance for controlling CWD is acting quickly after it’s been detected to prevent more animals from becoming infected. CWD can be transmitted directly – from animal to animal – or indirectly from the environment. Multiple management strategies will be employed to control the spread of the disease.