Nearly 600 brain and lymph node tissue samples from white-tailed deer in all three counties of Delaware showed no evidence of chronic wasting disease (CWD), the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife announced today. This brings the total number of Delaware deer tested since 2003 to more than 2,400.

During the October muzzleloader and November shotgun deer seasons last fall, 599 tissue samples were collected at meat processors across the state from deer harvested by hunters. The Division’s goal is to test and sample 200 deer within each county. Last year the Division met its goal in Kent and Sussex counties but came up a few samples short in New Castle County. The samples were submitted to the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine’s New Bolton Center for testing. Final test results just received showed all the samples to be negative for the disease.

“Six hundred samples give us a 99 percent probability of detecting the disease if it existed in one percent or more of the deer population. The only way to be certain that every deer in Delaware is free of CWD would be to test every deer, and that would not be practical. While this doesn’t provide 100 percent assurance of no disease, we are encouraged by these results,” said Joe Rogerson, the Division’s Game Mammal Biologist.

CWD is a neurological condition found in deer and elk in which an abnormal protein material called a prion invades and gradually destroys the animal’s brain. It is thought to be 100 percent fatal and believed to be transmitted from close contact with infected deer. The disease wasn’t known until the 1960s. In the 1970s, CWD was identified as a transmittable neurological disease. Extensive research has found no evidence that the disease can be transmitted to humans.

CWD has been found in several western and mid-western states including Colorado, Wyoming, Illinois, Wisconsin, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and South Dakota, as well as the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. The most recent states to detect CWD are New York and West Virginia. Both states detected the disease in 2005.

Surveillance programs, like Delaware’s, have been established in all eastern states and monitoring will continue in future years. So far, all eastern herds seem to be disease free. DNREC will continue monitoring in Delaware for the disease with plans for more tissue sampling this fall.

Hunters should be aware that more news regarding CWD will likely be available in the near future. In the event a deer does test positive for CWD in Delaware, or a surrounding state (Maryland or Pennsylvania), the Division is in the process of finalizing a CWD Response Plan so that action can be taken immediately. Under the plan, regulations also may be created in an attempt to keep Delaware free of CWD.

Recently, the Division passed two regulations in an attempt to ensure that Delaware remains CWD free. The first regulation bans the importation of high risk parts such as the brain, spine and lymph nodes from deer harvested in areas where CWD has been detected. A second regulation requires mandatory notification to the Division by a hunter if a deer harvested out of state by a Delaware resident tests positive for CWD.

More information can be found in the new 2008-2009 Delaware Hunting and Trapping Guide, on the Division’s website under “More information for hunters,” or the CWD Alliance website.

For more information about CWD issues in Delaware or any other deer related issue, please contact Wildlife Biologist Joe Rogerson, at 302-735-3600.

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