CWD UPDATE October 28, 2004

The story about the Arizona Red Deer incident that is going around the country needs clearing up. According to Jim DeVos of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, a producer had a red deer die in the spring of this year. The individual held the head until this month and it was then tested at the Colorado State University lab. This test showed up a presumptive positive for CWD. Additional tissues were run at CSU and samples submitted to NVSL in Ames. All additional tests were inconclusive and all tests used IHC as the method. The difficulty in reading these slides is attributed to the time between death of the animal and testing and the sample was severely autolytic. The facility has been placed under quarantine and samples obtained from an additional 5 animals, which are currently being tested. Additionally all records from the facility are being inspected to determine any shipments made or received. At this time, Arizona does not have a positive CWD animal as some reports are saying; they have one inconclusive test on a red deer.

Fish and Wildlife officers are hunting 20 elk released from a game farm northeast of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The Alberta Sustainable Resources Department reports that 30 elk were initially released and 10 have been collected to date. The ten already collected were negative for CWD when tested. Although it is unknown who released the animals, they are believed to be from a game farm due to the fact that elk do not occur naturally in the area and all 30 are yearlings. This is at least the third reported release of game farm animals in Alberta.

Another positive game farm elk has been reported in Saskatchewan, Canada. This is the 44th facility positive in Saskatchewan. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has quarantined three game farms due to this finding.

The Alaska State Veterinarian has banned the importation of whole carcasses and certain carcass parts (including heads and any portion of the spinal column) from cervidae and other species that may become susceptible to CWD. A moratorium on the importation of live cervids into Alaska has been in place since April of 2003. Allowable importation is restricted to the usual deboned meat, antlers with cleaned skullcap, hide with no meat attached, etc.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department reports that a mule deer buck harvested Oct. 3 from deer Hunt Area 76 on the east face of the Snowy Range just north of the Colorado line tested positive for chronic wasting disease. CWD had not previously been found in that hunt area. Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) officers and Wildlife & Heritage Service (WHS) biologists executed a search and seizure warrant on October 7 at a residence in Pasadena, Maryland to seize and transport 14 fallow deer that were held captive illegally.

The deer were transported to a lab to be euthanized. The deer will be tested for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and Tuberculosis (TB). The owner of the captive deer was charged with possessing live deer within the state without a proper wildlife permit.

U.S. officials have created a federal interagency working group to identify gaps in scientific knowledge about abnormal prion proteins, believed to cause bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and other diseases, according to a September 21 press release from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The working group will help coordinate federal agency efforts to identify research needs, share resources and expertise to gain greater understanding in addressing this threat to public health. The interagency working group will be composed of members nominated by federal agencies that have an interest in prion science and will meet regularly to discuss new scientific findings about prions, identify knowledge gaps, and communicate research needs to federal agencies.

Chronic Wasting Disease has been set as a national priority for piloting a Wildlife Disease Action Plan by the Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers. The Canadian Council of Wildlife Ministers recognize the growing danger wildlife diseases pose to wildlife, human health and the economy and have agreed to address the issue of chronic wasting disease by moving forward on developing an action plan for managing this disease and preventing its spread in Canada.