OLYMPIA-Three years of testing across Washington state have failed to turn up any deer or elk with chronic wasting disease (CWD), the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has announced.

Brain tissue samples from 2,511 animals were collected over the three-year period, with 672 of those taken during 2003 fall hunts. All tested samples were negative for chronic wasting disease. Some 280 of the samples could not be tested because the wrong portions of the animals’ brain stems were collected in the field.

“This multi-year effort offers continuing assurance that our wildlife population remains free of this serious disease,” said John Pierce, chief scientist for the WDFW Wildlife Program. He said the department will continue testing for CWD annually.

The state began targeted surveillance for CWD in 1995 and initiated more intensive tests of hunter-killed animals in 2001 when the disease began appearing in deer and elk in other states outside its previously known range. The illness was first identified in captive deer in Colorado in 1967.

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal disease of the central nervous system in deer and elk that has been detected in animals in at least 12 other states and two Canadian provinces.

As a prion disease, the malady is related to so-called “mad cow” disease in cattle, scrapie in sheep and Creutzfeld-Jakob disease in humans. However, there have been no confirmed cases of CWD being transmitted to livestock or people.

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