2 new Tennessee counties now positive for deer disease

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Two new Tennessee counties have had deer test positive for chronic wasting disease, and a third county has been classified high-risk, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency said.

Deer tested positive in Haywood and Chester counties in southwest Tennessee, the agency said in a news release Thursday. Lauderdale County was classified high-risk after a deer tested positive in Tipton County within 10 miles of the Lauderdale County line, the release said.

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Approximately 400 deer tested positive in southwest Tennessee during the 2019-20 deer season, mostly from Hardeman and Fayette counties. Madison, Shelby and Tipton counties are also positive for the disease, the release said. The agency said it tested more than 13,000 deer for the disease during the season.

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Supplemental feeding of wildlife is banned in the positive and high-risk counties, with some exceptions.

The disease was first recorded in the U.S. in the 1960s. The agency began testing during the 2018-19 hunting season when 185 deer were found to be infected with the contagious neurological disease, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says is believed to be caused by abnormal proteins that damage brain and spinal cord tissues.

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Though there have yet to be any recorded cases in humans, the agency recommends people avoid eating meat from infected deer. The disease may spread through contact with contaminated body fluids, tissue or indirect contact, the agency said earlier. It may incubate for more than a year and infected animals may slowly develop symptoms, which include stumbling, listlessness, drooling and excessive thirst, among other issues.

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