Chronic Wasting Disease found in a farmed elk from Olmsted County Mandatory surveillance program leads to detection of positive elk; state initiates investigation

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Board of Animal Health today announced that a farmed elk from an Olmsted County herd tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

The brain stem and lymph nodes from a 7-year-old female elk were submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa, after the animal was slaughtered. NVSL confirmed the animal had CWD. The Board of Animal Health quarantined the herd on January 23, 2009. This quarantine means no cervidae (members of the deer and elk family) can move on or off the farm. Meanwhile, officials continue to investigate the source of the infection and whether other cervidae may have been exposed.

In 2003, Minnesota implemented mandatory registration and CWD surveillance programs for farmed cervidae herds. When farmed cervidae over 16 months of age die or are slaughtered, herd owners must submit brain samples for CWD testing.

CWD is a fatal brain and nervous system disease found in cervidae in certain parts of North America. The disease is caused by an abnormally shaped protein called a prion, which can damage brain and nerve tissue. Infected animals show progressive loss of body weight with accompanying behavioral changes. In later stages of the disease, infected animals become emaciated (thus “wasting” disease). Other signs include staggering, consuming large amounts of water, excessive urination, and drooling.

According to state health officials and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans. For more information on CWD and the BAH, visit their website.