New deer disease overshadows start of Ohio hunting season

AKRON, OH (WOIO) - Hunting season opens with a warning about a disease threatening the deer population.

CWD or Chronic Wasting Disease has similar characteristics to Mad Cow, and has broken out all across the country.

"They will appear to be very sick. You'll see that they just look (emaciated). Real skinny and they're not moving around," said Ohio Division of Wildlife District Manager, Peter Novotny.

The infection, which impacts the brain, ultimately becomes extremely detrimental to the animal.

"They are transmitted deer to deer, but we're not exactly sure of that mechanism yet and how to prevent," said Novotny.

We're told that's because the disease is so new.

Biologists all over the world have been studying CWD to find out how it even developed in the first place.

"The good news is that we haven't detected any transmission from that disease to humans. That's the good news," said Novotny.

Here's the bad news: there's already been a case found here in Ohio.

"The disease was detected in a propagated deer, so basically like a deer kept in a fence," said Novotny.

But no cases of wild deer have been found with CWD.

However, with the start of hunting season, interactions with deer will increase.

Novotny has advice on how you can avoid contracting the virus if you're a hunter.

"Anytime that a hunter harvests a deer they should be keeping themselves bathed with the biological agent salt. Use gloves. Wash up after you're done," said Novotny.

Since CWD is a disease of the brain, eating deer meat should be fine as well.

"The safest thing that we recommend is spinal taking away that spinal matter of the deer and just using that muscle meat like we would do in hamburger or steaks," said Novotny.

The Ohio Division of Wildlife is actively responding to any and all calls about deer that may appear to be suffering from the disease.

If seen, call the wildlife division at 1-800-945-3543.

Copyright 2017 WOIO. All rights reserved.