A Stearns County farm has been quarantined because an elk that tested positive for chronic wasting disease in January was kept there nearly three years ago.

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health said this week that the 3-year-old female elk was at the farm owned by Roger Nietfeld near Melrose, Minn., for five months in 2000.

On Jan. 24, the elk tested positive on a farm owned by Jim Moscho near Sauk Centre. The other 20 elk in the herd tested negative. It was the state’s second confirmed case of the disease.

Malissa Fritz, a spokeswoman for the state Board of Animal Health, said Thursday that plans to test nearly 100 elk on Nietfeld’s farm depend on whether the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will reimburse him for the testing.

Nietfeld could not be reached for comment.

Chronic wasting disease, which attacks the brain and nervous system in elk and deer, is caused by abnormal proteins called prions. Infected animals show progressive weight loss and behavioral changes.

No infected deer have been found in Minnesota.

The state’s first case of the disease was confirmed last August in a bull elk at a farm in Aitkin County. It also had spent time at Moscho’s farm. No other traces of the disease, which can be transmitted from animal to animal, were found when state animal health officials tested brain tissue samples from the remaining elk on the farm.

The illness is in the same family of fatal diseases as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad cow disease, which has killed at least 130 people in Britain and other countries. Mad cow has been linked to contaminated beef and can take up to 30 years to incubate in people.

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