HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced that a captive deer has tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease in Pennsylvania. This is the second case of CWD discovered in a captive deer farm since 2014.
The 3-year-old white-tailed deer died on a farm in Bedford County in January 2017. Samples from this deer tested positive for the disease at the Pennsylvania Veterinary Laboratory in Harrisburg. The test results were confirmed by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, on Feb. 10. This deer was born and raised on the same premises, which is under quarantine. The investigation is ongoing and additional herds may be quarantined.
“For more than a decade the department has monitored the spread of CWD and worked with stakeholders to prepare a response to minimize its impact to the Keystone State,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell C. Redding. “While CWD is no danger to public health and has never been associated as a human health concern, we will continue to work with deer farmers and sportsmen to protect the health of Pennsylvania’s deer.”
There is no strong evidence that humans or livestock can contract Chronic Wasting Disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Chronic Wasting Disease 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.
Symptoms 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. Surveillance for the disease has been ongoing in Pennsylvania since 1998.
The Department of Agriculture coordinates a mandatory surveillance program for more than 21,000 captive deer on 1,000 breeding farms, hobby farms and hunting preserves. Twelve captive deer have tested positive since 2012, the most recent being a 4-year-old harvested from a hunting preserve in Franklin County in November 2016.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission collects samples from hunter-harvested deer and elk as well as those that appear sick or behave abnormally.
In areas where CWD has been detected in captive or free-ranging deer, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has responded by creating Disease Management Areas, within which special rules apply regarding the hunting and feeding of wild deer.
The Bedford County deer farm is within DMA 2, the only area of the state where CWD has been detected in wild deer.
At this point, however, it is not yet known how this case will affect those who live or hunt in the area, said Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough.
“Each hunting season we sample many of the deer harvested by hunters, both within our Disease Management Areas and elsewhere in the state, and within Disease Management Area 2, we test every known road-killed deer for CWD,” Hough said. “So far this year, positive CWD tests have come back regarding seven road-killed deer within DMA 2. And now this captive deer has been found with the disease. But we continue to await results from more than 3,000 samples from hunter-harvested deer.
“When all of those samples are returned, we will make our decision on how the boundaries of existing Disease Management Areas will change, as well as whether special rules regarding the feeding and hunting of deer in parts of Franklin County — where CWD was detected, earlier this year,” Hough said.
For more information, visit www.agriculture.pa.gov and search “Chronic Wasting Disease.”
— Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture