COLUMBIA, SC (WLTX) - A disease that's affecting deer around the United States has many worried about what impact it can have on people and if it is present in the Palmetto State.
Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD, has caught the eye of many hunters in the U.S. It's called the "mad cow" disease of deer.
Charles Ruth is a wildlife biologist and the big game program manager with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR).
"It's one of the biggest wildlife health issues that our country, really North America has faced. It really presents a problem because it's communicable. It's a disease that can spread from animal to animal. It's very difficult to manage, explained Ruth.
According to Ruth, the disease has been found in 23 states. After the first case of the disease west of the Mississippi River was found in Wisconsin in 2002, SCDNR has tested more than six thousand deer to find out if it's an issue in the Palmetto State.
"Here in South Carolina, we have not diagnosed the disease. We're in really good shape considering our geography," said Ruth.
He says the closest cases of the disease are found in the Northeast -- in the Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland area.
Ruth believes another key to preventing CWD in our state is not allowing the import of other deer from other states to South Carolina. In other states, deer can be imported to private lands. South Carolina doesn't allow it.
Many are also wondering what impact the disease could have on humans. Ruth says the experts don’t believe there is an impact at this time.
"The human health experts say no. These prion diseases are out there but generally they're specific to a species of animals or a family of animals," explained Ruth.
Although it's not in our state, Ruth says to be careful when you're eating venison from other states.
"You might want to use a little more caution if you're harvesting and eating deer in a state that has confirmed CWD. If you harvest a deer that doesn't look right, you probably don't need to eat it," said Ruth.
Ruth says it’s important to examine deer before you harvest and to let the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources know if you come across a sick deer.
For more information on CWD and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, click here.
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