Wildlife officials: Deer tests positive for ‘zombie deer’ disease, Northwest of SA

Health officials say there’s no evidence that suggests the disease is harmful to the public

PIctured is a deer in a field. (Pixabay)

AUSTIN – A five-and-a-half-year-old, white-tailed deer has tested positive for ‘zombie deer’ disease, or Chronic Wasting Disease, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife officials.

Officials say the deer is being held at a deer breeding facility in Kimble County, just Northwest of San Antonio, and is the first positive case of the disease that has been detected since 2011.

Tissue samples were taken from the deer as part of a mortality surveillance test on Feb. 6; however, the results were confirmed as positive by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, on Wednesday, Feb. 26, officials say.

The disease is described by Texas wildlife officials as a “progressive, fatal neurological disease” that affects the animal’s brain; however, the deer can have the disease for years without it being detected, per TPW staff.

Symptoms of the ‘zombie deer’ disease include listlessness, lowering of the head, weight loss, repetitive walking in set patterns and a lack of responsiveness, according to officials.

TPW officials say there’s no evidence that suggests the disease is harmful to humans; however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization urges the public not to consume meat from any animals that are infected with CWD as a precaution.

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Deer are still being held at the Kimble County breeding facility and more investigations into the disease will be conducted, according to wildlife officials.

Breeding facilities that have received deer from the Kimble County facility or have shipped deer to that facility over the last five years are restricted to not move or release the animals until they have completed further testing, TPW staff says.

“The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is working in coordination with the Texas Animal Health Commission and other agencies to launch an epidemiological investigation to determine the extent of the disease, assess risks to Texas’ free ranging deer and protect the captive deer breeding industry,” said Dr. Bob Dittmar, TPWD wildlife veterinarian, in a press release. “We want to thank landowners and the Texas hunting community for its strong support of our detection, sampling and herd management efforts – we cannot combat the spread of CWD without it.”

To learn more about CWD, click here.

About the Author:

Cody King is a digital journalist for KSAT 12. She previously worked for WICS/WRSP 20 in Springfield, Illinois.