BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Montana hunters should be able to submit meat for chronic wasting disease testing within the state by the next hunting season, officials said.

A Bozeman testing facility is expected to reduce the usual waiting time for hunters to learn if meat is safe to eat, The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported Sunday.

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal, contagious neurological condition affecting deer, elk and moose. The disease has not been shown to infect humans, but federal health officials advise against eating the meat.

The Montana Department of Livestock’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory purchased equipment to perform tests for the disease.

The testing is expected to be operational by the next deer and elk season, which typically begins in September and October depending on hunting categories.

Lab director Greg Juda said that by focusing entirely on Montana samples the Bozeman facility should be able to report results in days rather than weeks.

“Once you get to the dissected tissue portion, it should be a relatively rapid turnaround,” Juda said.

Montana has sent thousands of lymph nodes to Colorado State University for testing, which normally provides results in two to three weeks.

In-state testing is considered a major step forward for Montana’s fight against the disease, which was first discovered in the wild within the state in 2017.

Several other states with animals that have tested positive for the disease already have labs. Some observers said they thought Montana’s in-state testing was inevitable.

“As more and more people accept you’ll have to have your animals tested, this will just make it much more convenient and more timely,” said Nick Gevock, conservation director for the Montana Wildlife Federation.

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