SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been identified in one reindeer in a captive herd in northern Illinois. Affecting cervids (members of the deer family), CWD is a prion disease that causes brain and nerve issues and has proved to be fatal. A prion is an abnormally folded protein that can occur naturally or be acquired through contact with contaminated bodily fluids or a contaminated environment.
Symptoms include weight loss, stumbling, excessive thirst, drooling, and listlessness. An animal cannot be diagnosed with CWD by symptoms alone, as many of these are also indicators of other diseases. The only definitive way to diagnose CWD is through tissue testing after death. There is no USDA approved live animal test available to determine if an animal has CWD.
The affected reindeer was sampled on April 23 during a necropsy after the animal died unexpectedly. Tissues for CWD testing were submitted to the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for analysis and the diagnosis was confirmed at the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, IA on May 9. Samples were subsequently sent for DNA testing with confirmation received on June 5.
Prior to this detection, CWD had only been detected in one free-ranging reindeer herd in Norway in 2016. The susceptibly of reindeer to CWD had been much debated prior to this detection. This is the first known case of a reindeer being confirmed positive in North America.
The herd is a member of the IDOA’s Illinois Chronic Wasting Disease Certified Herd Program and has been placed under quarantine. The Illinois Department of Agriculture is working closely with the herd owner and USDA Veterinary Services to manage the herd.
There is no evidence of CWD being infectious to humans and it does not appear to naturally affect cattle or other domesticated animals.
— Illinois Department of Agriculture
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