Yearly Archives: 2009

Testing for Chronic Wasting Disease in Early Stages

Several presumptive positives detected, CWD possibly found in new counties

PRATT – Testing for chronic wasting disease (CWD) in samples collected from deer taken during the 2009 season is only about one-third complete, but the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) reports that six samples have shown presumptive positive. All collected samples are tested at the K-State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, and any that test positive for CWD are considered “presumptive positive” and then sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa for further testing and confirmation. Confirmation has not been received on these presumptive positives, but it’s possible that deer with CWD were taken in two Kansas counties where the disease has not been found before.

This year, presumptive positive test results have been found in samples from two deer taken in Decatur County, one taken in Rawlins County, one taken in Graham County, one taken in Sheridan County and one taken in Thomas County. CWD had not been detected in deer from Thomas or Graham counties previously. However, both counties are adjacent to counties where CWD had been detected in recent years.

KDWP has collected several thousand samples each year since 1996, and CWD in wild deer was first detected in Cheyenne County in 2005. Three infected deer were taken from Decatur County in 2007 and 10 tested positive in 2008, from Decatur, Rawlins and Sheridan counties. This year, about 2,300 samples will be collected, with emphasis in northwest Kansas. CWD is a member of the group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). Other diseases in this group include scrapie in sheep and goats, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or Mad Cow Disease) in cattle, and Cruetzfeldt-Jacob disease in people. CWD is a progressive, fatal disease that results in small holes developing in the brain, giving it a sponge-like appearance under the microscope. An animal may carry the disease without outward indication but in the later stages, signs may include behavioral changes such as decreased interactions with other animals, listlessness, lowering of the head, weight loss, repetitive walking in set patterns, and a lack of response to humans.

Currently there is no vaccine or other biological method that prevents the spread of CWD. There is no evidence that CWD poses a risk to humans or livestock, but precautions are advised. Hunters are advised not to eat meat from animals known to be infected and common sense precautions are advised when field dressing and processing meat from animals taken in areas where CWD is found. More information on CWD can be found on KDWP’s website, or at the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance website,

CWD Deer Season

Hunters in Boone, DeKalb, McHenry, and Winnebago counties and that portion of Kane County west of Ill. Rt. 47 can participate in the special seven-day Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Deer Season on Dec. 31, 2009-Jan. 3, 2010 and Jan. 15-17, 2010 to help control deer densities and the spread of chronic wasting disease. Special CWD season antlerless-only permits will be available beginning Dec. 15 over-the-counter for $5 each at participating DNR Direct license and permit vendors. In addition, hunters with unfilled 2009 firearm, muzzleloader, youth deer hunt, or archery deer permits valid for one of the open counties may use those permits to hunt during the CWD season. Hunters using unfilled permits from the 2009 firearm, muzzleloader, youth, or archery season may take deer appropriate for that permit (antlerless-only or either-sex). There will be no manned check stations during CWD season this year. Successful hunters should report their harvest by 10 p.m. on the same calendar day the deer was taken by calling the toll-free telephone check-in system at 1-866-452-4325 (1-866-ILCHECK) or by accessing the online check-in system. Successful hunters are encouraged to have any adult deer tested for CWD by taking it to a cooperating meat processor.

Hunters Asked to Donate Deer Tissue Samples

Iowa Department of Natural Resources staff will be collecting brain tissue from more than 4,000 deer over the next few weeks that will be tested for the presence of Chronic Wasting Disease. Since 2002, the DNR has submitted 29,000 tissue samples from wild deer and none have tested positive for the disease.

While tissue samples are collected from deer in every county, the majority of samples are collected from the Mississippi River counties from Allamakee to Scott, because CWD was confirmed in wild deer in Wisconsin and Illinois in 2002.

When the Iowa DNR began collecting tissue samples, the majority were collected from lockers that process deer. In 2009, fewer lockers will be participating in the collection. The Iowa DNR is asking hunters to help by calling the local conservation officer to arrange for a sample to be collected. Hunter participation is completely voluntary.

CWD is a brain disease that can infect deer, elk and moose. The disease is always fatal, although it may remain dormant within an infected animal for long periods of time. In the later stages, animals will appear severely emaciated, lethargic, and display repetitive behaviors. Excessive thirst and salivation, tremors, extreme behavioral changes and drooping head and ears are also often displayed. Anyone observing a deer displaying these symptoms should immediately contact the Iowa DNR.

To date, there is no evidence that humans can contract CWD by eating venison. However, the National Institute of Health and Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that hunters do not eat the brain, eyeballs or spinal cord of deer, and that hunters wear protective gloves while field dressing game and boning out meat for consumption.

Game Commission Prepares to Collect Samples for CWD Testing

HARRISBURG – While there are no known cases of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in the Commonwealth, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, joined by veterinarians and laboratory technicians from the Pennsylvania and U.S. departments of Agriculture, will continue its efforts tomorrow to sample thousands of hunter-killed deer to test for CWD.

“Currently, there are no confirmed or suspected cases of CWD-infected deer or elk in Pennsylvania, and we are doing what we can to ensure that it stays that way,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. “We are planning to collect samples from 4,000 hunter-killed deer to test for CWD in the upcoming firearms deer season. Last year, we tested samples from more than 4,200 deer. CWD was not detected in any of the samples.”

Game Commission deer aging teams will collect deer heads throughout the state beginning Tuesday, Dec. 1 – the second day of the state’s two-week rifle deer season. The heads will be taken to the six Game Commission Region Offices, where samples will be collected for testing.

The CWD tests on these deer samples will be conducted at the University of Pennsylvania’s veterinary diagnostic laboratory at the New Bolton Center in Chester County. Results are expected in 2010.

The Game Commission collected liver, lung and blood samples from the 43 elk harvested. The Game Commission also collected brain tissue and lymph node samples from elk that were not to be mounted, and requested that taxidermists submit the caped heads from elk provided by hunters seeking to have their trophies mounted. Elk hunters were provided pre-paid mailers for taxidermists to submit the samples. All elk samples will be tested for CWD at the New Bolton Center as well.

Under a contract with Penn State University, samples also will be tested for bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis. With funding from the state’s Animal Health Diagnostic Commission, the Game Commission and Penn State also are examining liver samples for nutritional mineral and heavy metal content, as elk frequently graze on reclaimed strip mines.

Dr. Walter Cottrell, Game Commission wildlife veterinarian, said the agency will release the elk and deer test results as soon as they are available.

The Game Commission, with the assistance of the Pennsylvania and U.S. departments of Agriculture, has conducted tests on more than 300 elk and more than 22,000 deer killed by hunters in Pennsylvania over the past six years. Since 1998, more than 600 deer and elk that have died of unknown illness or were exhibiting abnormal behavior also have been tested. No evidence of CWD has been found in these samples. The Game Commission will continue to collect samples from deer and elk that appear sick or behave abnormally.

Even though CWD had not been detected in Pennsylvania, CWD testing of healthy appearing hunter-killed deer or elk is available through the New Bolton Center. Hunters who wish to have their deer tested may do so for a fee by making arrangements with the New Bolton Center Laboratory (610-444-5800).

First identified in 1967, CWD is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) that affects cervids, including all species of deer, elk and moose. It is a progressive and always fatal disease, which scientists believe is caused by an agent capable of transforming normal brain proteins into an abnormal form.

There currently is no practical way to test live animals for CWD, and there is no vaccine to prevent an animal from contracting the disease. There is no cure for animals that become infected. There is no evidence of CWD being transmissible to humans or to other non-cervid livestock under normal conditions.

Deer harboring CWD may not show any symptoms in the disease’s early stages. The usual incubation period for CWD is between 12-24 months. Commonly observed signs of an infected animal include lowered head and ears, uncoordinated movement, rough-hair coat, weight loss, increased thirst, excessive drooling, weakness, and ultimately, death.

Hunters who see deer behaving oddly, that appear to be sick, or that are dying for unknown reasons are urged to contact the nearest Game Commission Region Office. Hunters should not kill or consume animals that appear to be sick.

“We count on hunters to be our eyes when they head out to hunt deer,” Roe said. “With the help of the nearly one million deer hunters who go afield, we can cover a lot of ground.

“Hunters should be mindful of wildlife health issues, even more so in recent years. At this point, we have no evidence that CWD is in Pennsylvania, or that it poses health problems for humans.”

Not only should hunters shoot only deer that appear to be healthy and behave normally, but the Game Commission also recommends that they use rubber gloves for field dressing. These are simple precautions that hunters can follow to ensure their hunt remains a safe and pleasurable experience.

CWD is present in free-ranging or captive wildlife populations in 15 states and two Canadian provinces. The Game Commission has been working with other state agencies to protect the Commonwealth’s wild and captive deer and elk by emphasizing measures designed to prevent its introduction into the state.

In September of 2005, in order to prepare for a possible CWD occurrence, Gov. Edward G. Rendell and agency representatives of the Pennsylvania CWD task force finalized and signed the state’s response plan, which outlines ways to prevent CWD from entering the state’s borders and, if CWD is in Pennsylvania, how to detect, contain and work to eradicate it. The task force was comprised of representatives from the Governor’s Office, the Game Commission, the state Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the state Department of Health, the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. Also, representatives of important stakeholder groups – including hunters, deer and elk farmers, meat processors and taxidermists – helped shape the final draft of the plan. A copy of the final plan can be viewed on the Game Commission’s website ( by clicking on “Reports/Minutes” and then selecting “Pennsylvania CWD Response Plan.”

In December of 2005, recognizing the transmissible nature of the disease, the Game Commission issued an order banning the importation of specific carcass parts from states and Canadian provinces where CWD had been identified in free-ranging cervid populations. In May of 2009, Roe modified that order to include all states where CWD had been detected, whether in a captive or wild setting. Now hunters traveling to the following states must abide by the importation restrictions: Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York (CWD containment area only), Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia (Hampshire County only), Wisconsin and Wyoming; as well as the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Specific carcass parts prohibited from being imported into Pennsylvania by hunters are: head (including brain, tonsils, eyes and lymph nodes); spinal cord/backbone; spleen; skull plate with attached antlers, if visible brain or spinal cord material is present; cape, if visible brain or spinal cord material is present; upper canine teeth, if root structure or other soft material is present; any object or article containing visible brain or spinal cord material; and brain-tanned hides.

The order does not limit the importation of the following animal parts originating from any cervid in the quarantined states, provinces or area: meat, without the backbone; skull plate with attached antlers, if no visible brain or spinal cord material is present; tanned hide or raw hide with no visible brain or spinal cord material present; cape, if no visible brain or spinal cord material is present; upper canine teeth, if no root structure or other soft material is present; and taxidermy mounts.

To learn more about CWD, visit the agency’s website and click on the “CWD Update” section in the “Quick Clicks” box in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage.

Chronic Wasting Disease Found in Elk Area 35 Near Buffalo

BUFFALO – A bull elk harvested from elk hunt area 35, southwest of Buffalo, has tested positive for chronic wasting disease, a wildlife disease known to affect some moose, deer and elk.

“This is the first time we have found elk with CWD in elk hunt area 35,” says Warren Mischke, Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Sheridan Region information specialist. “This area overlays deer hunt areas 27 and 28. A whitetail deer tested positive for CWD in deer area 27 in 2008.”

Department personnel collected tissue samples from the elk on Oct. 21. Personnel in the Wyoming Game and Fish Department Laboratory in Laramie analyzed the samples and verified the positive result on Nov. 9.

There is still no evidence that CWD is a human health risk. After a review of available scientific data, the World Health Organization in December, 1999 stated, “There is currently no evidence that CWD in cervidae (deer and elk) is transmitted to humans.” In 2004, Dr. Ermias Belay of the Center for Disease Control said, “The lack of evidence of a link between CWD transmission and unusual cases of CJD, (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a human prion disease) despite several epidemiologic investigations, suggest that the risk, if any, of transmission of CWD to humans is low.” Nonetheless, to avoid any risk, both organizations say parts or products from any animal that looks sick or tests positive for CWD or other TSEs should not be eaten.