EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – Sampling conducted in 19 west central Wisconsin counties during the 2006 deer hunting seasons found no signs of the fatal chronic wasting disease, indicating the disease has not spread to that part of the state, according to state wildlife officials.

Department of Natural Resources biologists, technicians and volunteers collected 9,304 samples for chronic wasting disease (CWD) testing from the agency’s West Central Region and areas of southern Wisconsin that are not in a CWD zone. None of these samples tested positive for the disease.

“This level of sampling was possible only because most hunters now recognize the statewide threat of this disease and helped us in the sampling,” said Bob Michelson, DNR West Central Region wildlife biologist, who noted many hunters volunteered to have the deer they registered tested for the disease.

Michelson said the findings show that hunters in west central counties now have some assurance the disease is not present in their hunting areas.

The DNR West Central Region includes St. Croix, Pierce, Pepin, Dunn, Chippewa, Eau Claire, Buffalo, Trempealeau, Jackson, Clark, Marathon, Portage, Wood, Adams, Juneau, Monroe, La Crosse, Vernon and Crawford counties. In the 19 sampled counties, more than 7,500 samples were taken, which provides a very high probability of discovering the disease if it were present, according to Michelson.

The agency collects samples outside of the CWD zones on a rotating, regional basis, to confirm that the disease is not spreading beyond the boundary of the herd reduction zone in the southern third of the state. The DNR Northeast Region was sampled in 2005, and during the 2007 deer seasons, the department will collect samples from the DNR Northern Region.

“Not finding the disease outside of the CWD zones is good news that reinforces the Department’s efforts to contain the disease in southern Wisconsin” said Alan Crossley, CWD project leader.

CWD was discovered in Wisconsin in February 2002 through routine testing of deer harvested during the November 2001 season. Since then, 129,019 wild deer have been tested across the state, and a total of 834 of those deer have tested CWD-positive. All infected wild deer were harvested in the current CWD zones of Southern Wisconsin.

CWD is an always fatal nervous system disease affecting deer, elk and moose. It is a member of the transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) family of diseases which also includes mad cow disease in cattle, scrapie in sheep, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.

According to the World Health Organization, any tissue that may have come from deer or elk with CWD should not be used in animal or human food; however, at this time there is no evidence that CWD in deer and elk can be transmitted to humans.

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