The first confirmed case this year of chronic wasting disease has been detected in a deer in Idaho County in north-central Idaho, state wildlife officials said.
Idaho Fish and Game on Friday said a white-tailed deer found dead along the side of the road tested positive for the disease. The agency said the cause of the deer's death is unknown.
The contagious and fatal neurological disorder was first detected in the state in the same area last fall. That area accounts for all seven detected cases in the state. The discovery of the disease last year prompted the Idaho Fish and Game Commission to designate a chronic wasting disease management zone.
The disease found in game animals carries potential health concerns for hunters because it’s in the same family as mad cow disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people not eat meat from animals with the disease, though it has never been documented to infect humans.
The most recent deer testing positive was found in Fish and Game's Management Unit 14, the only unit in Idaho where chronic wasting disease has been detected. All seven animals that have tested positive in the state were between the towns of Riggins and Grangeville.
"We expected to see more positive animals from Unit 14 this year, so while not surprising, it’s an important reminder that chronic wasting disease is present here in Idaho,” State Wildlife Manager Rick Ward said in a news release.
The agency on Friday said it had tested more than 1,000 deer and elk statewide so far this year, and testing on most of those animals is pending.
Game Management Unit 14 — and 15 to the east — have special restrictions and requirements for hunters as wildlife officials work to prevent the disease from spreading to other parts of the state.
Hunters in those units are required to have all deer, elk and moose tested for the disease.
There are also restrictions on taking a deer, elk or moose carcass out of the two units. Violating that restriction can result in a misdemeanor with a $1,000 fine, six months in jail and a three-year hunting license revocation.
Fish and Game officials said there is no cure for chronic wasting disease, and impacts to the state's elk, deer and moose herds from the disease pose a threat to future hunting opportunities.