FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, August 30, 2002

Chronic Wasting Disease found in a farmed elk from Aitkin County. Case marks the first time this disease has been detected in Minnesota

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Board of Animal Health today announced that a single animal from an Aitkin County domestic elk herd has tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). The case marks the first time this disease of elk and deer has been detected in Minnesota.

A sample of the five-year-old male elk’s brain was submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa, after the animal died from an unknown illness. Subsequent testing at NVSL confirmed that the animal had CWD. NVSL’s positive finding prompted the Board of Animal Health to immediately quarantine the herd. This quarantine means no animals can move on or off the farm. In the coming days, federal and state officials will decide the ultimate disposition of the herd.

Four years ago, Minnesota implemented a voluntary CWD monitoring program for farmed deer and elk herds. Every time a deer or elk from one of the enrolled farms dies or is slaughtered, its brain is tested for CWD. The herd from which the CWD positive animal came was enrolled in the monitoring program since 2000, and in that time four other animals were tested for CWD. All four animals tested negative.

CWD is a fatal brain and nervous system disease found in elk and deer in certain parts of North America. The disease is caused by an abnormally shaped protein called a prion, which can damage brain and nerve tissue. Infected animals show progressive loss of body weight with accompanying behavioral changes. In later stages of the disease, infected animals become emaciated (thus “wasting” disease). Other signs include staggering, consuming large amounts of water, excessive urination, and drooling.

According to state health officials and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans.

Until this case was reported, CWD had never been found in Minnesota. There have been cases in farmed elk in Colorado, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Montana and Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada. Cases have also been found in wild deer in Wisconsin, Wyoming, Colorado, South Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico and Saskatchewan.

© Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance

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