Yearly Archives: 2012

Chronic Wasting Disease Detected in Far West Texas

AUSTIN — Samples from two mule deer recently taken in far West Texas have been confirmed positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). These are the first cases of CWD detected in Texas deer. Wildlife officials believe the event is currently isolated in a remote part of the state near the New Mexico border.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) implemented regionally-focused deer sample collection efforts after the disease was detected in the Hueco Mountains of New Mexico during the 2011-12 hunting season. With the assistance of cooperating landowners, TPWD, TAHC, and USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services biologists and veterinarians collected samples from 31 mule deer as part of a strategic CWD surveillance plan designed to determine the geographic extent of New Mexico’s findings. Both infected deer were taken from the Hueco Mountains of northern El Paso and Hudspeth counties.

CWD is a member of the group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). Other diseases in this group include scrapie in sheep, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease) in cattle, and Cruetzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. CWD among cervids is a progressive, fatal disease that commonly results in altered behavior as a result of microscopic changes made to the brain of affected animals. An animal may carry the disease for years without outward indication, but in the latter stages, signs may include listlessness, lowering of the head, weight loss, repetitive walking in set patterns, and a lack of responsiveness. CWD is not known to affect humans.

Tissue samples were initially tested by the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in College Station, with confirmation by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.

“Now that we have detected CWD in Texas, our primary objective is to contain this disease,” said Carter Smith, TPWD Executive Director. “Working collaboratively with experts in the field we have developed protocols to address CWD and implementation is already under way.”

There is no vaccine or cure for CWD, but steps have been taken to minimize the risk of the disease spreading from beyond the area where it currently exists. For example, human-induced movements of wild or captive deer, elk, or other susceptible species will be restricted and mandatory hunter check stations will be established.

“This is obviously an unfortunate and rather significant development,” said TPW Commission Chairman, T. Dan Friedkin. “We take the presence of this disease very seriously and have a plan of action to deal with it. The Department will do whatever is prudent and reasonable to protect the state’s deer resources and our hunting heritage.”

Although wildlife officials cannot say how long the disease has been present in Texas or if it occurs in other areas of the state, they have had an active CWD surveillance program for more than a decade.

“We have tested more than 26,500 wild deer in Texas since 2002, and the captive-deer industry has submitted more than 7,400 CWD test results as well,” said Mitch Lockwood, Big Game Program Director with TPWD. “But that part of West Texas is the toughest place to conduct an adequate CWD surveillance program because so few deer are harvested out there each hunting season. Thanks to the cooperation and active participation of several landowners, we were able to begin getting an idea of the prevalence and geographic distribution of the disease without needing to remove many deer.”

The TAHC regulates cervid species not indigenous to Texas such as elk, red deer, and sika deer. TAHC oversees a voluntary CWD herd monitoring status program with the intent to facilitate trade and marketability for interested cervid producers in Texas. Cervid herds under either TPWD or TAHC authority may participate in the commission’s monitored CWD program. The basis of the program is that enrolled cervid producers must provide an annual herd inventory, and ensure that all mortalities during the previous year were tested for CWD and the disease was not detected.

Wildlife biologists, hunters, and landowners would certainly have preferred for Texas mule deer populations to have not been dealt this challenge, but TPWD and TAHC have developed a CWD Management Plan that includes management practices intended to contain the disease. The management plan includes input from the CWD Task Force, which is comprised of deer and elk producers, wildlife biologists, veterinarians and other animal-health experts from TPWD, Texas Animal Health Commission, Department of State Health Services, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine, and USDA.

The disease was first recognized in 1967 in captive mule deer in Colorado. CWD has also been documented in captive and/or free-ranging deer in 19 states and 2 Canadian provinces, including neighboring New Mexico.

“We know that elk in southern New Mexico are also infected with CWD,” said Dr. Dee Ellis, State Veterinarian and TAHC Executive Director. “It will take a cooperative effort between hunters, the cervid industry, and state/federal animal health and wildlife agencies to ensure we keep this disease confined to southern New Mexico and far West Texas. I am confident however that will be able to do that, and thus protect the rest of the Texas cervid industry.”

More information on CWD can be found on Na href=”http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/cwd” target=”_blank”>TPWD’s website, or at the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance website.

More information about the TAHC CWD herd monitoring status program may be found online.

Nine Deer Test Positive for Chronic Wasting Disease

All but three from northwest Kansas; numbers stable PRATT— The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) has announced that nine deer from Kansas tested positive for chronic wasting disease, seven confirmed and two presumptive, for the current test year. That total is down from 10 confirmed positive during last year’s testing. The two presumptive positive samples will be sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa for confirmation. All but three of the nine deer — one from Stafford County one from Sumner County, and one from Ford County — were animals from northwestern Kansas. The Stafford, Sumner, and Ford county cases were firsts for each county. Eight of the deer were taken by hunters during the 2011 hunting seasons, and one was euthanized by a KDWPT natural resource officer after it was reported as acting sick. Two cases were from Norton County and one each from Decatur, Ford, Rawlins, Stafford, Sumner, Trego, and Wallace counties. All cases were white-tailed deer. This season’s testing results bring the total number of confirmed CWD cases in Kansas to 49 since testing began in 1996. In total, 2,447 animals were tested for CWD for the 2011 deer seasons. Although most testing is finished for the year, KDWPT will continue testing some vehicle-killed and sick or suspect-looking deer, as well as deer taken with depredation permits, through July 31. Annual testing is part of an ongoing effort by KDWPT to monitor the prevalence and spread of CWD. The fatal disease was first detected in a Kansas wild deer taken in Cheyenne County in 2005. 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. Anyone who discovers a sick or suspect deer should contact the nearest KDWPT office. “It must be noted that many symptoms of CWD are indicative of other diseases,” says KDWPT wildlife disease coordinator Shane Hesting. “A sick deer may or may not be infected with CWD. CWD is a serious deer disease but is still a rare disease in Kansas. There is no vaccine or other biological method that prevents the spread of CWD. However, there is no evidence that CWD poses a risk to humans or livestock in the natural environment.” Still, precautions should be taken. 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 KDWPT’s website, ksoutdoors.com or at the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance website, www.cwd-info.org.

TAHC Now Accepting Comments on Chronic Wasting Disease Rule Proposal

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TAHC Modifies Entry Requirements Effective Immediately for Cervids

AUSTIN –The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) announced that effective immediately it is has determined that Red deer (Cervus elaphus), and Sika deer (Cervus nippon) are “susceptible species” for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and therefore must meet the same entry requirements as other cervid species regulated by the agency such as elk and moose. The new entry rules for Red deer and Sika deer will require they originate from herds with at least five years of participation in a herd certification program from states where CWD has been detected, and at least three years participation in programs from states that have not found CWD thus far.

The agency decision was based in part on the disclosure that a farmed Red deer herd in Minnesota was confirmed positive for CWD in May of this year. Further, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released an interim final CWD rule on June 8, which designates Sika deer and Red deer as susceptible species. The USDA rule is intended to establish minimum requirements for interstate movement of deer, elk, moose, and other susceptible cervids, and to also establish a national CWD certification program.

Under the new TAHC entry requirements, besides originating from a herd with three or five year status as described above, Red deer and Sika deer shippers must also obtain an entry permit and request entry in writing. Proper supporting documentation must also accompany the request for entry at least 10 days prior to the proposed entry date. More information on TAHC entry requirements related to cervids can be found online

Indigenous cervid species such as white-tailed deer and mule deer are regulated by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD), not the TAHC. Currently those species are entirely prohibited from entering Texas based on TPWD rules.

USDA Establishes a Herd Certification Program for Chronic Wasting Disease in the United States

Rule Seeks to Support U.S. Farmed Cervid Industry, Respond to Concerns Raised by State Animal Health and Wildlife Agencies

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today announced an interim final rule to establish a national chronic wasting disease (CWD) herd certification program (HCP) and minimum requirements for interstate movement of deer, elk and moose, or cervids, in the United States. Participation in the program will be voluntary. The interim final rule amends the Agency’s 2006 final rule which was never put into effect. CWD is a fatal neurological disease of deer, elk and moose and is in the family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. There is no evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans.

“It is important that we have a nationwide CWD herd certification program for farmed or captive cervids,” said USDA Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford. “The amendments we are making to our CWD rule will help to control the spread of this disease, support the growing U.S. cervid industry, and complement existing state CWD programs.”

Since 1997, CWD has been reported in farmed or captive cervids in 11 states. With the interim final rule, APHIS is addressing the needs of the farmed cervid industry, while responding to concerns raised by State animal health and wildlife partners after APHIS published its final CWD rule in 2006. The rule establishes a national program that provides uniform herd certification standards and will support the domestic and international marketability of U.S. cervid herds. The changes made to the CWD rule also will not preempt state or local laws and regulations that are more restrictive than APHIS’ regulations, with the exception that cervids that are eligible to move interstate may transit a state that bans or restricts the entry of such animals en route to another state.

The CWD HCP is a cooperative effort between APHIS, State animal health and wildlife agencies, and the cervid industry. The program will provide consistent national minimum standards to certify cervid herds to be low risk for CWD and to establish minimum standards for the interstate movement of cervids.

APHIS will approve State programs that, among other requirements, establish movement restrictions on CWD-positive, CWD-suspect, and CWD-exposed animals; conduct tracebacks on such animals to determine what other animals may be affected by the disease; require the testing of all farmed cervids that die or are euthanized; and maintain premises and animal identification for all herds participating in approved State programs.

APHIS is issuing the interim final rule and requesting public comment for 30 days specifically on the issue of preemption and the protection of state and local authorities. The interim final rule will become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. After reviewing the public comments, the Agency will issue a final rule and, should there be a need, incorporate any changes made in response to comments received by the Agency.

Participating States will have 180 days from the time the rule is published before APHIS begins enforcing the interstate movement provisions in the regulation. This will give states time to develop HCPs and have them approved by APHIS.

This interim final rule is available online. Consideration will be given to comments received on or before July 13. Interested parties may submit comments by either of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal
  • Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: please send your comment to Docket No. 00-108-8, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.

Comments are posted on the Reglations.gov website and may also be reviewed at USDA, Room 1141, South Building, 14th Street and Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C., between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. To facilitate entry into the comment reading room, please call (202) 799-7039.

Currently, U.S. agriculture is experiencing one of its best periods in history thanks to the productivity, resiliency, and resourcefulness of our farmers and ranchers. The work of APHIS helps safeguard our nation’s agriculture, fishing and forestry industries from unwanted pests, disease and unjustified trade restrictions. For example, to promote the health of U.S. agricultural exports, APHIS develops and advances science-based standards with trading partners to ensure our farm exports, valued at more than $137 billion annually, are protected from unjustified barriers. Strong agricultural exports are a positive contribution to the U.S. trade balance, support more than 1 million American jobs and boost economic growth.