As a result of receiving confirmation earlier this month that a road-killed deer in Hampshire County tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) has engaged the agency’s CWD – Response Plan.
“Our highly trained and professional wildlife biologists, wildlife managers and conservation officers have been working hard to fully activate this plan,” said DNR Director Frank Jezioro . “We have implemented many of the action items identified in the plan, which is designed to effectively address this important wildlife disease situation.”
The CWD – Response Plan is specifically designed to accomplish the following goals:
(1) determine the prevalence and the distribution of CWD through enhanced surveillance efforts;
(2) communicate and coordinate with the public and other appropriate agencies on issues relating to CWD and the steps being taken to respond to this disease;
(3) initiate appropriate management actions necessary to control the spread of this disease, prevent further introductions of the disease, and possibly eliminate the disease from the state.
Listed below are examples of specific action items that have been implemented to date.
- A public, informational meeting dealing with the topic of CWD was conducted on Tuesday night, September 13, 2005 in Romney , West Virginia . DNR personnel presented programs on the current status of the disease in the North America , the recently confirmed positive case in Hampshire County , and the DNR’s plans to address this important wildlife disease issue. Approximately 150 hunters, landowners and other interested members of the public attended this meeting. Representatives from the DNR and the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study were available to answer questions.
- Close coordination and collaboration with appropriate state and federal agencies (e.g. West Virginia Department of Agriculture, West Virginia Bureau for Public Health and U.S. Department of Agriculture), adjacent state fish and wildlife agencies (e.g. Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Pennsylvania Game Commission) and the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia ‘s College of Veterinary Medicine are ongoing.
- CWD deer collection teams, comprised of personnel from the Wildlife Resources and Law Enforcement Sections, have initiated carefully planned collection efforts in portions of Hampshire County . These collections began on Wednesday, September 14, 2005 , and are designed to enhance the agency’s CWD surveillance efforts and determine the distribution and prevalence of the disease. These deer collections will be supplemented with samples from crop damage and road-killed animals within the surveillance area.
CWD is a neurological disease found in deer and elk, and it belongs to a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. The disease is thought to be caused by abnormal, proteinaceous particles called prions that slowly attack the brain of infected deer and elk, causing the animals to progressively become emaciated, display abnormal behavior and invariably results in the death of the infected animal. There is no known treatment for CWD, and it is always fatal for the infected deer or elk. It is important to note that currently there is no evidence to suggest CWD poses a risk for humans or domestic animals.
CWD was first recognized in 1967 in Colorado , and it subsequently has been found in captive herds in nine states and two Canadian provinces and in free-ranging deer or elk in nine states and one province. Earlier this year, the disease was found as far east as New York . The source of infection for wild and captive deer and elk in new geographical areas is unknown in many instances. While it is not known exactly how CWD is transmitted, lateral spread from animal to animal through shedding of the infectious agent from the digestive tract appears to be important, and indirect transmission through environmental contamination with infective material is likely.
“I am extremely proud of efforts undertaken by DNR personnel to address this serious wildlife disease situation,” noted Jezioro. “As we strive to meet this challenge and implement appropriate management strategies, it is most gratifying to have the widespread support and cooperation demonstrated by hunters, landowners and other agencies involved in these efforts.”
More information on CWD can be found at the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources’ Web site: www.wvdnr.gov and the CWD Alliance website: www.cwd-info.org .