MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A deer killed in northwest Alabama was infected with chronic wasting disease in the first confirmed case of the illness in the state, game officials said Friday.

The disease, which is fatal and affects the behavior of deer because of microscopic changes in the brain, previously was detected in neighboring Tennessee and Mississippi in 2018 and has been advancing toward the state's borders, said a statement from Chris Blankenship, commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

The whitetail deer that tested positive was killed in Lauderdale County, located in the state's northwest corner, the announcement said.

Hunters will be able to kill all the deer they want in Lauderdale and Colbert counties on private or public properties in the area through the end of the season to help eradicate the disease, but they must submit animals' heads for testing in the highest-risk areas.

A deer can carry the disease for years without symptoms, the department said. In its latter stages, the illness may cause listlessness, lowering of the head, weight loss, repetitive walking in patterns and a lack of responsiveness.

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