Preliminary testing has detected the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) agent in four more free-ranging white-tailed deer recently collected in Hampshire County as part of an ongoing and intensive CWD surveillance effort, it was announced today by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR). This brings the total of CWD-positive deer found in Hampshire County since last fall to nine. These most recent samples were collected in March and April by DNR’s deer collection teams working in Hampshire County . The CWD laboratory testing was conducted by the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, which is located at the University of Georgia ‘s College of Veterinary Medicine in Athens, Georgia .
When CWD was first confirmed last September in Hampshire County , DNR immediately implemented its CWD – Incident Response Plan. As part of that plan, DNR has been engaged in intensive CWD surveillance efforts designed to determine the distribution and prevalence of the disease. From September 2005 through April 2006, a total of 1,317 Hampshire County deer was tested for CWD. These samples consisted of 1,016 hunter-harvested deer taken during the 2005 fall hunting season, 216 deer collected by DNR in the fall of 2005, and 85 additional deer most recently collected by DNR in 2006. CWD was not detected in any of the hunter-harvested deer collected last fall. Four of the 216 deer collected by DNR in the fall of 2005 were confirmed to have the CWD agent, and now, preliminary tests indicate that 4 of the 85 deer collected by DNR in 2006 have the CWD agent. The disease has now been detected in a total of 9 deer in Hampshire County (i.e., 1 road-killed deer, 4 deer collected by the DNR in 2005 and 4 deer collected by the DNR in 2006).
“Analysis of this initial CWD surveillance data indicates the disease appears to be found in a relatively small geographical area located near Slanesville , West Virginia,” noted DNR Director Frank Jezioro. “From a wildlife disease management perspective, we consider this to be encouraging news. Based upon these CWD surveillance findings, we are taking the steps necessary to implement appropriate management actions designed to control the spread of this disease, prevent further introduction of the disease, and possibly eliminate the disease from the state,” Jezioro said.
The following disease management options are being evaluated by the DNR for use within the affected area of Hampshire County :
- Lower deer population levels to reduce the risk of spreading the disease from deer to deer by implementing appropriate antlerless deer hunting regulations designed to increase hunter opportunity to harvest female deer;
- Establish reasonable, responsible and appropriate deer carcass transport restrictions designed to lower the risk of moving the disease to other locations;
- Establish reasonable, responsible and appropriate regulations relating to the feeding and baiting of deer within the affected area to reduce the risk of spreading the disease from deer to deer.
“Landowner cooperation throughout this entire CWD surveillance effort in Hampshire County has been just terrific,” Jezioro noted. “As we strive to meet this wildlife disease challenge and implement appropriate management strategies, the support and involvement of landowners and hunters will continue to be essential. DNR remains committed to keeping the public informed and involved in these wildlife disease management actions.”
CWD is a neurological disease found in deer and elk, and it belongs to a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. The disease is thought to be caused by abnormal, proteinaceous particles called prions that slowly attack the brain of infected deer and elk, causing the animals to progressively become emaciated, display abnormal behavior and invariably results in the death of the infected animal. There is no known treatment for CWD, and it is fatal for the infected deer or elk. It is important to note that currently there is no evidence to suggest CWD poses a risk for humans or domestic animals.
CWD was first recognized in 1967 in Colorado , and it subsequently has been found in captive deer and elk herds in nine states and two Canadian provinces and in free-ranging deer and elk in 11 states and two provinces. In 2005 the disease was found as far east as New York and West Virginia . The source of infection for wild and captive deer and elk in new geographical areas is unknown in many instances. While it is not known exactly how CWD is transmitted, lateral spread from animal to animal through shedding of the infectious agent from the digestive tract appears to be important, and indirect transmission through environmental contamination with infective material is likely.
“Our well trained and professional wildlife biologists, wildlife managers and conservation officers are working diligently to fully implement the DNR’s CWD – Incident Response Plan, which is designed to effectively address this wildlife disease threat,” said Jezioro. “Hunters, landowners and other members of the public should feel confident that we have some of the best wildlife biologists and veterinarians in the world, including those stationed at the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study in Athens, Georgia , working collaboratively on this situation.”