Rabid Deer Discovery Leaves Experts Puzzled

   09.22.17

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is investigating a confirmed case of rabies found in dead deer in Cherokee County.

The disease is far from ordinary to see in deer, and even experts can only speculate as to how the disease was contracted.

“We’re not certain how it was contracted,” said Fairley Mahlum, spokeswoman for N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. “It’s possible that it might have been eating a pile of corn and was bitten by a rabid raccoon. Rabies has to be contracted by saliva. But we don’t know for sure.”

Rabies, along with chronic wasting disease (CWD), can come with a myriad of similar symptoms in affected deer. The wildlife commission has already received several reports of deer having trouble standing up, no fear of humans, and a serious lack of coordination.

According to Citizen-Times, biologists collected and tested multiple animals for rabies, including two deer, only one of which with alopecia (loss of hair) tested positive for rabies.

Rabies can affect all mammals, including humans, however deer rarely get tested for the disease simply because there generally isn’t a reason to believe they’ve been infected. Symptoms can include lethargy, loss of balance, unexplained aggressiveness and eye or nose discharge.

Deer hunters should take the following measures to prevent contracting the disease:

  • Do not handle or eat any animal that is acting abnormal or appears to be sick.
  • Wear latex or rubber gloves when field dressing.
  • Minimize the handling of the brain and spinal cord.
  • Do not allow pets around field dressing area to prevent contact with blood and other tissues.
  • Wash hands, boots and instruments thoroughly after completing field dressing.
  • If you have your deer commercially processed, request your animal is processed individually and without meat from other animals.
  • Use proper cooking temperatures to ensure safe food.
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