The Arizona Game and Fish Department reports lab results found no chronic wasting disease (CWD) in any of the nearly 2,500 hunter-harvested deer and elk tested from the fall 2005 hunt season.

CWD is a neurological disease that does not affect humans but is fatal to deer and elk. The disease has not yet been found in Arizona but has been detected in several other states, including three that border Arizona: Colorado, Utah and New Mexico.

“We’re very encouraged by these results, but we’ll continue to remain vigilant with an aggressive testing program,” says Jim deVos, research branch chief for the Game and Fish Department. “If CWD does show up in Arizona, early detection will better allow us to launch efforts to prevent its spread.”

The department has tested more than 6,000 deer and elk since beginning its surveillance program in 1998. Most samples are from hunter-harvested animals taken during the hunt season. Hunters who donate samples are notified of the test results within six to eight weeks. “Hunters play a crucial role in our testing process through their participation,” says deVos. “For example, this year our goal was to get about 1,600 samples, but we ended up receiving nearly 2,500.”

Of the samples tested, 1,540 were deer and 926 were elk. CWD was first discovered in captive deer in Colorado in the 1960s. It has since spread to both captive and wild deer in 11 states and two Canadian provinces. It belongs to a family of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), which attack the brain and turn it into a sponge-like material. Other TSEs are mad cow disease in cattle, scrapie in sheep, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.

No evidence has been found to indicate that CWD affects humans, according to both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department will continue to work in close coordination with other state and federal agencies to monitor for CWD.

For more information on CWD, visit the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Web site at azgfd.gov/cwd; the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance Web site at cwd-info.org; or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site at cdc.gov (use the search feature for chronic wasting disease).