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Deer tested in 2 N Louisiana parishes free of fatal disease

January 7, 2022 GMT

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — More than 300 deer tested in two parishes near Arkansas were all free of a deadly brain disease, so hunters in those parishes may resume baiting, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said Friday.

“The department is happy about the outcome, and we thank the deer hunters who brought in their harvested deer to be tested,” Secretary Jack Montoucet said in a news release. “Their assistance helped shorten the time period that it would have taken to reach our goal.”

The department banned feeding and baiting deer in Union and Morehouse parishes in early December after Arkansas authorities found chronic wasting disease in a deer killed about 8 miles (12.8 kilometers) from the Louisiana state line.

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The disease is highly infectious and always lethal but develops slowly. Deer can be infected and can transmit the disease for years before showing symptoms such as drooling, listlessness, lack of coordination and weight loss.

Louisiana will continue collecting samples — deer heads with six inches of neck — throughout the deer season. The agency encourages hunters to bring samples to the nearest field office for testing.

Hunters, processors and taxidermists across the state have brought more than 1,100 samples for testing.

Arkansas, Texas and Mississippi are among at last 25 states where the disease has been found in wild or captive deer.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises hunters against eating meat from deer with the disease. No connection has yet been established between eating a sick animal and becoming infected, but meat from cattle infected with a similar disease was linked to a human brain disorder called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

That disease, like chronic wasting disease, is believed to be caused by abnormally folded proteins known as prions.

Louisiana wildlife officials encourage hunters and the general public to immediately alert their local wildlife and fisheries field office if they see deer acting strangely.