Wildlife authorities in Virginia say a deer hunted in Loudoun County last month has tested positive for chronic wasting disease.
The adult doe was harvested in October during the archery season near the county’s border with West Virginia, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources said in a news release Wednesday.
It was the first time a deer hunted in Loudoun County tested positive for the deadly neurological disease that affects deer, elk and moose, said Dr. Megan Kirchgessner, the Virginia state wildlife veterinarian, in an email to WTOP.
The department has been conducting surveillance for the disease in Loudoun since September.
The disease was first detected in Virginia in 2009 and has previously been detected in Fauquier, Clarke, Culpeper, Frederick and Shenandoah counties in Virginia.
The disease is caused by abnormal proteins called prions that can be passed to other deer through saliva, feces, urine and water or soil contaminated with the infectious prions, the department said.
Signs of a sick deer include loss of coordination, a droopy head or ears, excessive drooling, a lack of fear of humans and extreme emaciation.
The disease, which has been detected in pockets throughout the U.S., particularly the Western U.S., is of serious concern for Virginia’s white-tailed deer population, but it has not been shown to pose any health risks for humans or domestic animals.
The department urged hunters to help fight the fatal disease by submitting harvested deer for testing, which helps monitor the infection rate of local deer populations and map the geographic spread.
“This information is critical to helping slow the spread of this disease,” the department said in the release.
While there’s no evidence the disease can infect humans, the department recommends hunters wait for deer samples to be tested before eating venison.
During deer season, a hunter can drop off the head plus 4 inches of the neck for testing at sites throughout Virginia.
In Loudoun County, hunters can take samples to the Philomont General Store. There are two locations in Fauquier County, and one each in Culpeper and Rappahannock counties.
“The Department is grateful to all cooperating hunters, processors and taxidermists for their continued support” to monitor the deer population for the spread of the disease, the agency said in the release.