Late last week, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) announced that three free-ranging white-tailed deer collected from Hampshire County had tested “suspect positive” for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). These samples were submitted for further testing at the Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and, as expected, they were confirmed to be CWD positive.

To date, the Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory has completed testing on a total of 121 samples submitted by the DNR from deer collected through its most recent CWD surveillance efforts in Hampshire County which began on September 14, 2005 . With the exception of these three positive deer, diagnostic test results indicated CWD was not detected in any of the remaining samples.

Immediately following confirmation earlier this month that a road-killed deer had tested positive for CWD in Hampshire County , the DNR implemented its CWD – Incident Response Plan. Deer collection teams, comprised of personnel from the Wildlife Resources and Law Enforcement Sections, began carefully coordinated deer collections within portions of Hampshire County . The three deer confirmed positive for CWD this week were collected within 2½ miles of the original positive animal. These three deer, combined with the original positive animal, brings the total number of confirmed CWD positive cases within Hampshire County to four.

“Based upon these findings, we have intensified deer collection efforts within the surveillance area to accurately determine the prevalence and distribution of CWD in this region of the state,” said DNR Director Frank Jezioro . “These surveillance efforts would not be possible without the excellent cooperation provided by local landowners, and I remain most appreciative of their assistance. As we move forward with this intensive CWD surveillance effort and implement appropriate management strategies, the continued support and involvement of both landowners and hunters will be essential.”

CWD is a neurological disease found in deer and elk, and it belongs to a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. The disease is thought to be caused by abnormal, proteinaceous particles called prions that slowly attack the brain of infected deer and elk, causing the animals to progressively become emaciated, display abnormal behavior and invariably results in the death of the infected animal. There is no known treatment for CWD, and it is fatal for the infected deer or elk. It is important to note that currently there is no evidence to suggest CWD poses a risk for humans or domestic animals.

CWD was first recognized in 1967 in Colorado , and it subsequently had been found in captive herds in nine states and two Canadian provinces and in free-ranging deer or elk in nine states and one province. Earlier this year, the disease was found as far east as New York . The source of infection for wild and captive deer and elk in new geographical areas is unknown in many instances.

While it is not known exactly how CWD is transmitted, lateral spread from animal to animal through shedding of the infectious agent from the digestive tract appears to be important, and indirect transmission through environmental contamination with infective material is likely.

“I would like to remind the public that our Wildlife Biologists, Wildlife Managers and Conservation Officers from across the state are working hard to fully engage the DNR’s CWD – Incident Response Plan,” Jezioro said. “In addition, we continue to work collaboratively on this wildlife disease situation with scientists and veterinarians from the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study stationed at the University of Georgia ‘s College of Veterinary Medicine.” More information on CWD can be found at the DNR’s website: and the CWD Alliance website: .

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