The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources announced today it has received confirmation that a road-killed deer in Hampshire County tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). “This is the first known occurrence of CWD in West Virginia ,” said Director Frank Jezioro . “Upon receiving this confirmation, we initiated our CWD Response Plan which is designed to effectively address this important wildlife disease issue.”
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.
The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, in cooperation with the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study located at the University of Georgia ‘s College of Veterinary Medicine , has tested 1,320 free-ranging deer from West Virginia for CWD since 2002, and the Hampshire County deer is the only animal found thus far to be infected with CWD. The positive CWD sample was collected from a 2½ year-old, male deer in Hampshire County as part of a long-term, statewide CWD surveillance effort. The Hampshire County deer tissue sample was first tested at the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study in Athens , Georgia , and then confirmed as positive for CWD by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames , Iowa .
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 had 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.
“While the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources certainly considers this a serious wildlife disease situation with potential impacts to the state’s important deer management program, I am confident that our well trained and professional staff of wildlife biologists, wildlife managers and conservation officers will meet this challenge and implement appropriate management strategies,” said Jezioro. “In addition, we are most fortunate to have scientists and veterinarians stationed at the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, including some of the foremost wildlife disease experts in the world, available to assist us in this effort.”
More information on CWD can be found at the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources’ Web site: www.wvdnr.gov/hunting/chronicwaste.shtm and the CWD Alliance website: www.cwd-info.org .