LITTLE ROCK — Fifty cases of chronic wasting disease have now been confirmed in tissue samples taken from elk and deer in Newton County, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said Thursday.

LITTLE ROCK — Fifty cases of chronic wasting disease have now been confirmed in tissue samples taken from elk and deer in Newton County, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said Thursday.


The agency said its sampling effort in the area has been halted, but many test results are still pending. Because the disease was confirmed in some samples from outside the sampling area, the agency said it will begin begin taking samples from any sick or dead deer reported anywhere in the state.


The primary focus of the second phase of testing will be on road-killed animals.


"Samples taken from road kills have a greater chance of testing positive than random samples from healthy animals," Cory Gray, the commission’s deer program coordinator said in a news release. "The presence of CWD can only be determined within a day or two of the animal’s death, so we need the public to call in and report any road-killed deer as soon as they see it."


This second phase of testing will continue until at least May 20. Anyone who sees a sick or dead deer or elk can call (800) 482-9262.


Chronic Wasting Disease is a neurological disease that’s part of a group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. Once in a host’s body, prions transform normal cellular protein into abnormal shapes that accumulate until the cell ceases to function.


As the brains of infected animals degenerate, they lose weight, lose their appetite and develop an insatiable thirst. They tend to stay away from herds, walk in patterns, carry their head low, salivate and grind their teeth.


The commission is holding weekly public meetings at Carroll Electric Cooperative in Jasper. The next meeting will be at 11 a.m. on April 7.