Last fall, brain and lymph node tissue samples from hunter harvested white-tailed deer in Delaware were submitted to the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine’s New Bolton Center for Chronic Wasting Disease testing. Three hundred random samples were collected in Delaware, 100 from each county. Final test results just received showed all the samples to be negative for the disease.
According to Ken Reynolds, Wildlife Research Program Manager with the Division of Fish and Wildlife, “300 samples gave us a 95% probability of detecting the disease if it existed in 1% or more of the deer population. While this doesn’t provide 100% assurance of no disease, we are encouraged by these results.”
Chronic Wasting Disease or CWD, is a neurological condition found in deer and elk where it appears an abnormal protein material called a prion invades and gradually destroys the animal’s brain. It is thought to be 100% fatal and believed to be transmitted from close contact with infected deer. The disease wasn’t known about until the 1960’s and in the 70’s the disease was identified as a transmittable neurological disease.
The disease has been found in several western and mid-western states including Colorado, Wyoming, Illinois, Wisconsin, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. The Canadian Provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta have also had cases.
Surveillance programs, like Delaware’s, have been established in all eastern states and monitoring will continue in future years. So far, all eastern herds seem to be disease free. Extensive research has found no evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans. DNREC will continue monitoring in Delaware for the disease with plans of another tissue sampling this fall.