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Associated Press, Published January 22 2011

Minnesota finds 1st probable case of chronic wasting disease in wild deer

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota wildlife officials have found the

state's first probable case of chronic wasting disease in a wild

deer, which was shot near the southeastern town of Pine Island, the

Department of Natural Resources announced.

It was one of 524 deer tested during the fall hunting season in

the Pine Island area, northwest of Rochester, the DNR said. The

agency expects to get confirmation from the National Veterinary

Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, next week but is already moving

ahead with a response plan developed several years ago.

Officials said there's no evidence that CWD can spread to

humans, nor is it known to affect livestock such as cattle. But the

disease is fatal to deer, elk and moose, and experts recommend

against eating meat from an infected animal.

Lou Cornicelli, the DNR's big game coordinator, said they hope

it's an isolated case and that a fast response can stop it from

spreading through the state's deer herd.

Still, DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said the discovery has

``serious implications.' He noted that Minnesota has nearly half a

million deer hunters, and that deer hunting has a large impact on

the state's economy.

Researchers don't know exactly how CWD is spread, though they

think it passes from animal to animal through feces, urine or

saliva, and that deer can catch it from contaminated soil. It's

caused by abnormal proteins called prions, not bacteria or viruses.

The disease causes brain degeneration and is always fatal.

Symptoms can include a drooping head or ears, poor physical

condition, tremors and stumbling. The hunter told DNR officials his

deer seemed thin but that it behaved normally.