The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) announced today that three free-ranging white-tailed deer, collected last week in Hampshire County as part of an intensive Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) surveillance effort, tested “suspect positive” for the disease. The University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory screened the samples using the Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) test which offers fast turnaround time but which must be confirmed with an additional test. Therefore, these samples are undergoing further diagnostic testing using the Immunohistochemistry (IHC) test which is considered the “gold standard” for CWD testing. Final test results are expected next week.
“I want to stress that these results are preliminary and identify the need for more definitive testing through IHC on these three samples,” said DNR Director Frank Jezioro. “We will announce the results of the final testing as soon as we receive them from the laboratory.”
Earlier this month a single white-tailed deer was confirmed as positive for CWD in Hampshire County . DNR immediately implemented its CWD – Incident Response Plan. As part of that plan, CWD deer collection teams, comprised of personnel from the Wildlife Resources and Law Enforcement Sections, have been conducting carefully planned deer collections within portions of Hampshire County for the past two weeks.
“As identified in our Response Plan and based upon these preliminary findings, deer collection teams will now intensify their collection efforts within the surveillance area to accurately determine the prevalence and distribution of CWD in this region of the state,” Jezioro said. “Landowner cooperation throughout this entire surveillance effort in Hampshire County has been just terrific. As we strive to meet this wildlife disease challenge and implement appropriate management strategies, the support and involvement of landowners and hunters will continue to 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.
“As we await the final IHC test results from Minnesota , our well trained and professional staff of Wildlife Biologists, Wildlife Managers and Conservation Officers are working diligently to fully implement DNR’s CWD – Incident Response Plan, which is designed to effectively address this wildlife disease threat,” Jezioro said. “Hunters, landowners and other members of the public should feel confident that we have some of the best wildlife biologists and veterinarians in the world, including those stationed at the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study in Athens , Georgia , working collaboratively on this situation.”
More information on CWD can be found at the DNR’s Web site: www.wvdnr.gov and the CWD Alliance website: www.cwd-info.org .