Harrisburg, PA - The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture today announced that a deer harvested from a Wisconsin hunting preserve subsequently tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). The deer originated from a Lancaster County farm that is now under quarantine.
DNA testing confirmed on February 13, 2018, that the deer was born and raised on the West Cocalico Township, Lancaster County, breeding farm. A two-and-a-half-year-old buck from the same farm tested positive for CWD earlier this month. Neither deer showed signs of the disease prior to its death.
The farm has been quarantined since December 15, 2017, when Wisconsin’s state veterinarian notified the department of the potential traceback. DNA testing was run to confirm the deer’s identity in the absence of official identification tags for the deer.
The department, along with the United States Department of Agriculture, is currently evaluating the farm in cooperation with the herd owner to establish a Herd Management Plan to mitigate the threat of this disease spreading. The plan, which all three parties sign, may include indemnification of the herd by the USDA or a continuous quarantine with mandatory testing. A quarantine would be extended five years every time a positive is detected.
CWD attacks the brain 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 or contaminated environment.
Clinical signs include weight loss, excessive salivation, increased drinking and urination, and abnormal behavior like stumbling, trembling, and depression. Infected deer and elk may also allow unusually close approach by humans or natural predators. The disease is fatal and there is no known treatment or vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report no strong evidence that humans or livestock can contract CWD.
The infectious agent, known as a prion, tends to concentrate in the brain, spinal column, eyes, spleen, and lymph nodes. These high-risk parts must be properly handled and disposed of at the harvest location to prevent disease spread. Low-risk parts such as deboned meat, clean skull caps and capes present little risk and may be taken home.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture coordinates a mandatory surveillance program for the disease for 860 breeding farms, hobby farms and hunting preserves across the state. Since 1998, accredited veterinarians and certified CWD technicians have tested 27,000 captive deer in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Game Commission collects samples from hunter-harvested deer and elk and wild deer that appear sick or behave abnormally.
Find more information about Pennsylvania’s captive deer CWD programs and the department’s broader efforts to safeguard animal health at agriculture.pa.gov.
MEDIA CONTACT: Shannon Powers - 717.783.2628
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