Fairfax's first case of chronic wasting disease confirmed, traced to Vienna

Watchful Eye

Photo byTerry Kreeger

The first case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Fairfax County has been confirmed in an adult male deer, the Department of Wildlife Resources announced.

CWD is an incurable neurologic disease spread through the urine, feces or saliva of infected animals. It’s slow-acting meaning that an infected animal may not show signs for months, but ultimately the infection kills the animal.

When signs of CWD are visible, they include staggering, abnormal posture, lowered head, drooling, confusion, and notable weight loss.

The positive CWD case in Fairfax is one where there was no sign the animal was infected, DWR reported.

The deer was harvested legally in Vienna and “appeared in good condition” when it was taken to the taxidermist in late October. A sample was taken as part of the statewide surveillance program. Because it appeared that Fairfax was witnessing its first CWD case, an extensive forensic investigation was conducted after the detection of the disease.

Despite this positive case, DWR encourages hunters to continue hunting. The department said those activities are essential to tracking the disease.

No hunting regulations will change as a result of this positive case until the end of the 2022-2023 deer hunting season.

However, DWR strongly recommends that hunters do not transport whole deer carcasses or any parts containing brain or spinal cord tissue out of Fairfax County to a non-disease management area (non-DMA) county.

Also, carcasses and parts should be double-bagged and placed directly in the landfill or a receptacle used for regular trash collection.

Hunters in Fairfax can get deer tested for CWD for free by bringing the head to a CWD drop site in DMA 2, which includes Loudoun, Fauquier, Rappahannock, page, Madison, Orange, and Culpeper.

Deer heads should be as fresh as possible, ideally submitted within a few days of death, and they should be kept cold until they are dropped off. Any deer heads that will be mounted should have 3 inches of neck after caping.

Head drop sites include:

  • Brandy Station Volunteer Fire Dept. – 19601 Church Rd., Brandy Station
  • Hidden Pines Meat Processing – 8265 Ruth Rd., Madison
  • The Market at Locust Grove – 32301 Constitution Highway, Locust Grove
  • Merrimac Sports Shop & Grocery – 10096 James Monroe Highway, Culpeper
  • Eppard’s Deer Processing – 5021 Thomas Haney Rd, Barboursville
  • Stanley Volunteer Fire Dept. – 190 East Main St., Stanley
  • Philomont General Store – 36550 Jeb Stuart Rd., Philomont
  • Nick’s Country Market & Deli – 11127 Marsh Rd., Bealeton
  • Glascock Grocery & Nick’s Deli – 8294 East Main St., Marshall
  • Washington Volunteer Fire Dept. – 10 Firehouse Ln., Washington

There is no evidence that CWD can be transmitted naturally to humans, pets or livestock, said DWR. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that people do not eat meat from animals that test positive.

In addition to deer, elk and moose also get infected with CWD.

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