1st Case of Chronic Wasting Disease Found in PA

November 20, 2012

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture said it has confirmed the first positive case of chronic wasting disease in Pennsylvania on a deer farm in Adams County.

Chronic wasting disease is fatal in deer, elk and moose, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said there is no evidence the illness can be transmitted to humans.

The white-tailed deer that tested positive was on a farm along New Chester Road in New Oxford. The Agriculture Department said it has quarantined the farm and two others directly associated with the positive deer; in Dover, York County and in Williamsport, Lycoming County.

The quarantine prevents movement of animals on and off the farms to avoid spreading the disease.

Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe said chronic wasting disease has not been found among wild deer so far, and he said concerns over the illness should not prevent anyone from enjoying deer hunting and consuming deer meat.

Roe advised hunters to shoot only healthy-appearing animals, and take precautions like wearing rubber gloves when field-dressing their deer and washing thoroughly when finished.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people or other animals do not eat any part of an animal diagnosed with or showing signs of the disease.

Chronic wasting disease attacks the brains of infected deer, elk and moose, producing small lesions that eventually result in death. It is transmitted by direct animal-to-animal contact through saliva, feces and urine.

Signs of the disease 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.

Chronic wasting disease was first discovered in Colorado captive mule deer in 1967 and has since been detected in 22 states and Canadian provinces, including Pennsylvania's neighboring states of New York, West Virginia and Maryland.

Pennsylvania is the 23rd state to find CWD in either a captive or wild population of deer and the 13th state to have it only in a captive deer herd.

Surveillance for CWD has been ongoing in Pennsylvania since 1998. In addition, the Game Commission collects samples from hunter-harvested deer and elk and those that appear sick or behave abnormally.

Since 1998, the Game Commission said it has tested more than 38,000 free-ranging deer and elk for CWD and all have tested negative.

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