Agriculture Secretary Russell C. Redding and Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe today unveiled an updated plan designed prevent the spread of a disease that threatens the state’s deer and elk populations but poses no threat to humans.
The officials said the improved Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD, response plan is part of the state’s ongoing aggressive efforts to prevent the disease from establishing itself in Pennsylvania. The disease has been identified in New York, Virginia and West Virginia, but has not yet been found in Pennsylvania.
CWD is progressive and fatal. It affects the nervous system of cervids, including mule deer, elk, and black and white tailed deer. There is no known treatment, vaccine or live animal test for detecting the disease.
“Chronic Wasting Disease has been detected in three neighboring states, and we must be ready to respond to protect our state’s wild and captive deer and elk populations,” said Redding. “The deer and elk populations are important not just to our state’s one million hunters, but also to Pennsylvania agriculture. With more than 1,000 cervid livestock operations in the state, we are one of the largest cervid farming states in the nation.”
Pennsylvania is ranked second in the nation for commercial deer and elk farms with a more than $40.3 million in direct farm receipts and 3,500 industry-related jobs.
Redding said the new plan further defines prevention methods and procedures for detecting and containing the disease early if found here. It calls for collecting more samples from the state’s cervid population through hunter harvest, road kill and domestic cervids. The plan also outlines movement restrictions for live cervids and carcasses from CWD-positive states to non-positive areas.
“For nearly a decade, the Game Commission has tested more than 27,000 hunter-killed deer and elk, and has not detected, found, confirmed or suspected any cases of CWD in Pennsylvania,” Roe said. “To continue that monitoring effort, we are planning to collect samples from 4,000 hunter-killed deer to test for CWD in the upcoming firearms deer season, and have collected samples during this year’s elk season.”
The CWD Response Plan is a coordinated effort involving the Game Commission, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the state departments of Agriculture, Environmental Protection, and Health.
CWD has been detected in wild and/or captive herds of deer and elk in neighboring New York, Virginia and West Virginia, as well as Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Canada.
Clinical signs in infected animals include poor posture, lowered head and ears, uncoordinated movement, rough-hair coat, weight loss, increased thirst, excessive drooling and, ultimately, death.
There is no scientific evidence that CWD has or can spread to humans, either through contact with infected animals or by eating meat of infected animals. But as a precaution, consumption of animals known to be infected is not recommended.
Anyone coming into contact with an animal exhibiting one or more clinical signs should report it immediately to the Pennsylvania Game Commission at 717-787-4250, or the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture at 717-772-2852.
For more information about CWD, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s information siteand click on “Chronic Wasting Disease.”
The state’s CWD Response Plan is online, click on “Animal and Plant Health,” “Chronic Wasting Disease,” then “Response Plan.”