The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

March 4, 2013

Outdoors: State's first cases of CWD confirmed

By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item

HARRISBURG — Three deer shot in the wild during the 2012 hunting season had Chronic Wasting Disease, the first positive cases of the ailment in free-ranging deer in Pennsylvania, confirmed Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe, at a Monday afternoon press conference.

Two of the deer were from Blair County — an adult buck was shot in Frankstown Township and an adult doe was shot in Freedom Township; in Bedford County, a one-and-a-half-year-old buck was killed in South Woodbury Township.

CWD is a degenerative brain disease that affects elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer. It was first documented in Pennsylvania in early October, 2012, by the state Department of Agriculture in a captive deer on an Adams County deer farm. Signs of the disease include weight loss, excessive salivation, increased drinking and urination, and abnormal behavior such as stumbling, trembling and depression. Infected deer and elk also may allow unusually close approach by humans or natural predators. There is no known treatment or vaccine.

The disease is transmitted by direct animal-to-animal contact through saliva, feces and urine; it’s fatal in deer and can devastate populations, but there is no evidence that the disease can be transmitted to humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The World Health Organization.

Game commission officials at a Monday press conference explained they are  gathering information about the deer and the disease.

No state that has ever found CWD has successfully eradicated it.

The three hunter-killed deer tissue samples were collected by Game Commission personnel during annual deer aging field checks during the general firearms season for deer.

The samples were tested and identified as suspect positive by the Department of Agriculture as part of an ongoing annual statewide CWD surveillance program. The tissue samples were confirmed to be positive for CWD by the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, as part of an established verification process.

“The three CWD-positives were part of 2,945 deer sampled for the disease statewide,” explained Roe.

Since 1998, the Game Commission has gathered and submitted more than 43,000 samples from wild deer and elk for CWD testing, Roe said. The three CWD-positives were the first to be confirmed in 15 years of testing.

“Pennsylvania has an active Interagency CWD Task Force and a dynamic CWD surveillance program,” Roe noted, “and we will continue to be vigilant and initiate steps included in the Commonwealth’s CWD Response Plan. We will continue to work diligently with the Department of Agriculture and other members of the task force to better manage the threat of this disease to the state’s captive and wild deer populations.”

The latest information and updates to existing CWD information can be accessed on the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us). Public meetings will be held in the Blair-Bedford county area in coming weeks to share what the commission knows about these CWD-positive deer and CWD in Pennsylvania, and to answer questions the public might have about this disease.

How these latest developments may influence hunting regulations and other deer policies are at this time still contingent upon the results of ongoing testing of samples from hunter-killed deer, additional surveillance and fieldwork, and Game Commission and task force deliberations.

CWD was first discovered in Colorado captive mule deer in 1967, and has since been detected in 22 states and Canadian provinces, including New York, West Virginia and Maryland.