Harrisburg, PA - The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture today announced that 27 deer from a Bedford County deer farm have tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD. The department quarantined the herd on February 16, 2017, after a white-tailed deer on the farm died. The deer subsequently tested positive for the disease.
Deer in the quarantined herd of 215 showed no signs of illness. To prevent further spread of the disease, officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Veterinary Services, USDA Wildlife Services and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture depopulated, or euthanized, the herd on June 20, 2017. USDA provided financial compensation to the farm owner for the loss of the herd.
“We are working directly with captive-deer herd managers to educate them on risk factors and to do whatever possible to safeguard their herds,” State Veterinarian Dr. David Wolfgang said. “Increased surveillance both in and outside fences is paramount, along with employing management strategies, such as uniformly restricting movement of high-risk parts, managing the density and age of captive herds, and considering secondary barriers to prevent direct contact between captive and wild deer.”
The National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa conducted the testing and reported results to the department and USDA on August 7, 2017. In addition, research samples were collected and submitted to the USDA Cervid Herd Health Team for additional testing to better understand the disease and to help validate live-animal testing methods in the future. Currently, the only accurate test for CWD is post-mortem testing of the brainstem and lymph nodes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no strong evidence that humans or livestock can contract Chronic Wasting Disease.
The disease attacks the brains of infected deer, elk and moose, producing small lesions that eventually result in death. Animals can get the disease through direct contact with saliva, feces and urine from an infected animal.
Clinical signs include weight loss, excessive salivation, increased drinking and urination, and abnormal behavior like stumbling, trembling and depression. Infected deer and elk also may allow unusually close approach by humans or natural predators. The disease is fatal and there is no known treatment or vaccine.
The first cases of CWD in Pennsylvania were detected when two Adams County deer tested positive for CWD in 2012. Since then, 40 captive deer and 60 wild deer have tested positive in the state. Surveillance for the disease has been ongoing in Pennsylvania since 1998.
The department coordinates a mandatory surveillance program for more than 21,000 captive deer on 1,000 breeding farms, hobby farms and hunting preserves. Prior to this herd, 13 captive deer had tested positive since 2012, with three positive tests earlier this year.
For more information, visit agriculture.pa.gov and search “Chronic Wasting Disease.”
MEDIA CONTACT: Shannon Powers - 717.783.2628
# # #