RICHMOND, Va., – The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) has good news concerning the results of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) testing in a surveillance area that included parts of western and northern Shenandoah, Frederick, Loudoun and Clark counties. More than 550 samples from white-tailed deer collected this fall were tested and CWD was not detected. Samples were tested using the relatively new rapid ELISA test at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.
VDGIF immediately activated part of its CWD Response Plan when the disease was discovered in a deer in Hampshire County, West Virginia, in September 2005. The case was found approximately 10 miles from the Virginia state line. The Department established a surveillance area and with assistance from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and local hunters, staff collected samples from road-killed and hunter-killed deer throughout the surveillance area.
VDGIF Wildlife Division Director Bob Duncan said of the test results, “This is clearly good news, and we could not have achieved this without the hard work of the field biologists, and the cooperation and support of our partners. In particular, we owe a debt of gratitude to the staff of VDOT for their assistance with collecting road-killed deer, to local meat processors, and above all to the hunters who allowed us to test their deer.”
Dr. Jonathan Sleeman, wildlife veterinarian for the Department added, “While we can never say that Virginia is entirely free of the disease without testing every deer, this sample size gives us a very high confidence that if CWD is present in the surveillance area, then it is at very low levels.”
The Department will continue its CWD surveillance into 2006. VDGIF staff will meet with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources to discuss results in both states and to coordinate efforts. VDGIF Deer Project Leader Matt Knox said of the coordination, “Our counterparts in West Virginia have been very helpful, and we will continue to work closely with them in the future.”
CWD is a progressive neurological (brain and nervous system) disease found in deer and elk, and belongs to a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). The disease ultimately results in the death of the animal. Species known to be susceptible include elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, black-tailed deer and moose.
All hunters and members of the public are asked to keep a look out for any deer showing symptoms consistent with the disease. These clinical suspects are defined as adult (18 months or older) deer or elk that have poor body condition with neurological signs such as abnormal behavior, tremors, stumbling, un-coordination, poor posture including droopy ears and a lowered head, drooling, and excessive thirst, and urination. Anyone who sees a CWD suspect deer should not attempt to contact, disturb or kill the animal. Instead, accurately document the location and immediately contact the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries by calling 1- 804-367-1258. Arrangements will be made to investigate the report.
More information about CWD and the Department’s management actions can be found on the VDGIF Web site www.dgif.virginia.gov/cwd.