SPRINGFIELD, ILL. – Seven additional cases of chronic wasting disease have been found in wild deer tested during follow-up sampling conducted in the northern Illinois counties where the wildlife disease was first confirmed last fall, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources announced today.

Five of the seven new CWD-positive deer were harvested by IDNR and U.S. Department of Agriculture personnel, who collected and tested samples from 185 deer during February and March in Boone, Winnebago and McHenry counties. The other two CWD-positive deer had shown clinical signs of the illness and were submitted for testing by IDNR field staff. All seven new cases of CWD involved deer found near the Boone-Winnebago county line northeast of Rockford. No additional cases were detected through sampling in McHenry County.

The state’s first case of chronic wasting disease was detected in a suspect animal discovered by a Boone County landowner last fall. Six additional cases were detected in Boone, McHenry and Winnebago counties in samples collected from hunter-harvested deer during the firearm deer hunting season last November and December.

“At this point, chronic wasting disease does not appear to be widely distributed in either the Boone-Winnebago area, where a total of 12 deer have tested positive for CWD, or in McHenry County where we have two positive tests,” said IDNR Forest Wildlife Program manager Paul Shelton. “The cases in Boone and Winnebago counties came from an area measuring about six miles by seven miles, while the McHenry cases are from an area about two miles by three miles.”

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological disease affecting deer and elk, causing infected animals to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior, lose coordination and eventually die. CWD is not known to be contagious to humans or livestock.

As part of a statewide chronic wasting disease surveillance effort, Illinois tested 4,060 tissue samples taken from deer harvested by hunters in 36 counties during the firearm deer season last fall. The only confirmed cases of CWD were found in Boone, McHenry and Winnebago counties, prompting the follow-up sampling in those counties.

In addition, the state has tested samples from more than 300 deer harvested in Cook, DuPage, Lake, Winnebago and Jo Daviess counties as part of urban/suburban deer population control permit programs. None of the samples were found to be positive for CWD.

Shelton said the chronic wasting disease surveillance effort has provided valuable information to help guide the state’s strategy in dealing with the disease.

“We plan to sample hunter-harvested deer throughout the state again this fall and to follow up with additional sampling in identified CWD areas as necessary,” Shelton said. “Biologists will continue to respond to reports from the public of suspect animals to test them for chronic wasting disease. We may also incrementally increase the firearm deer permit quota for Boone, Winnebago and McHenry counties to reduce the density and increase the population turnover of deer in that area to help control and manage the disease.”

For details on state regulations and the latest information about chronic wasting disease, please see the Department’s web site at http://dnr.state.il.us/pubaffairs/2002/CWD.htm.