The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) received laboratory confirmation on January 19, 2010, that a white-tailed deer tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD). This is the first confirmed case of CWD in Virginia. The deer was killed by a hunter in Frederick County less than one mile from the West Virginia line. With this case, Virginia now joins 17 other states and Canadian provinces with CWD, five of which are east of the Mississippi River.
“This was not unexpected,” stated VDGIF Executive Director Bob Duncan. “Our wildlife professionals have been preparing for this for some time. The surveillance efforts have been critical and we appreciate the hunters, check station operators, and other cooperators who have supported our efforts.”
CWD is a disease of deer and has not been found to be transmitted to humans or other animals. To learn more about CWD in Virginia and about the agency’s CWD Response Plan visit www.dgif.virginia.gov/cwd.
This is the first positive test sample out of nearly 5,000 deer tested in the Commonwealth since 2001. VDGIF has been sampling hunter-killed and road-killed deer from the Active Surveillance Area in western Frederick and Shenandoah counties since 2005, when CWD was first detected near Slanesville, West Virginia, within ten miles of the state line. Between 2005 and 2009, CWD has been detected in 62 deer in Hampshire County, West Virginia, out of nearly 10,000 total deer sampled during that time. Several have been found within five miles of the Virginia line.
Agency officials from West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) and VDGIF continue to share information and coordinate their responses. For more information on CWD in West Virginia please see the WVDNR website. VDGIF is also working in consultation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
How did VDGIF detect CWD in Virginia?
Since 2002, when CWD was first detected east of the Mississippi River (in Wisconsin), the Department developed a CWD Response Plan. Parts of the plan have been activated since 2005, after West Virginia discovered CWD. The Response Plan has been updated and revised several times, as recently as December 2009, as new information becomes available. The VDGIF CWD Response Plan is designed to define the magnitude and geographic extent of a CWD outbreak and control the transmission of the disease.
The 2-year-old female deer that tested positive was killed by a hunter on November 14, 2009, on private land west of Gore, Virginia, in Frederick County less than one mile from the West Virginia line. As part of VDGIF’s CWD surveillance program, the hunter submitted the harvested deer for tissue sampling by VDGIF staff working at a local check station. VDGIF submitted samples to two different laboratories, first for initial testing, and then for independent confirmation.
Testing generally takes 6-8 weeks
VDGIF obtained 206 samples from hunter-killed and road-killed deer in the Active Surveillance Area near West Virginia during the 2009-10 hunting season. The agency is awaiting initial laboratory results for 37 of these samples taken at the end of the season. Hunters who submitted deer heads for tissue samples to test for CWD can check on results by visiting the Department’s website at www.dgif.virginia.gov/cwdresults. VDGIF cannot guarantee that all hunter-submitted animals were tested.
What is CWD? Are people at risk?
CWD is a slow, progressive neurological (brain and nervous system) disease found in deer, elk, and moose in North America. The disease ultimately results in death. Species known to be susceptible include elk, red deer, moose, mule deer, white-tailed deer, and black-tailed deer. CWD belongs to a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. There is no evidence that CWD can be naturally transmitted to livestock or other (non deer) animals.
There is no current scientific evidence that CWD has ever infected humans. However, it is recommended that human exposure to the CWD agent be avoided, and the Department recommends that hunters take simple precautions such as not consuming any deer that appear abnormal or sick, and wearing gloves when field dressing and boning out the meat. In addition, it is recommended that hunters avoid consuming meat and tissues from known CWD-infected animals.
It must be remembered that the CWD test is designed for surveillance purposes and is not a food safety test. The CWD tests will detect the causative agent at a certain level in the tissue, and a result of “not detected” does not guarantee that the agent is not present at low levels.
How is VDGIF addressing CWD detection in Virginia?
The new detection in Frederick County, Virginia, will further activate the VDGIF CWD Response Plan which enhances surveillance and disease control measures. The CWD Response Plan is available on the Department website at www.dgif.virginia.gov/cwd.
VDGIF Executive Director Bob Duncan noted, “For many years, Department staff and our Board of Game and Inland Fisheries have been proactive in working to reduce Virginia’s CWD risk.”
Prevention and early detection remain important components of Virginia’s CWD program. Given that CWD is likely transmitted deer-to-deer or through environmental contamination by infected deer, activities that unnaturally concentrate deer or move deer or deer carcasses likely increase the risk of spreading CWD. Therefore, since 2002, VDGIF has:
- Actively conducted CWD surveillance activities throughout Virginia , and targeted surveillance of suspected risk factors;
- Changed regulations and permit conditions to ban the importation of live deer and elk into and within Virginia;
- Strengthened captive deer requirements related to animal marking, record keeping, facility inspections, and mortality reporting;
- Prohibited the importation of whole deer carcasses and selected parts into Virginia from states known to have CWD;
- Prohibited the feeding of deer in Virginia from September 1 through the first weekend in January each year;
- Prohibited the relocation of rehabilitated deer out of Frederick or Shenandoah counties;
- Provided accurate and timely information about CWD to deer hunters and the general public through news releases, pamphlets, magazine articles and other media outlets.
Persons who have questions or need additional information about CWD should visit the Department’s website at www.dgif.virginia.gov/cwd.