This week, Pennsylvania Game Commission officials announced that chronic wasting disease still hasn't been found in the Keystone State. And that's after 3,766 samples of hunter-killed deer were tested.
However, two new cases of chronic wasting disease (CWD) were confirmed in neighboring Virginia last fall. It wasn't unexpected, since they were detected close to where CWD-infected deer were found in 2009 and 2010. Both deer were killed by a hunter in western Frederick County, Virginia, close to the West Virginia border.
CWD is a neurological (brain and nervous system) disease found in deer, elk and moose.
"Pennsylvania continues to have no confirmed or suspected cases of CWD in wild deer or elk," says Dr. Walt Cottrell, wildlife veterinarian for the Game Commission. "By conducting these tests from hunter-killed deer and on all hunter-killed elk, we continue our efforts to find the disease in wild deer and elk in the state."
"Although CWD hasn't been found in Pennsylvania, we must continue to be vigilant in our CWD early detection surveillance efforts. The disease has been found just over 10 miles away from our border in Maryland, which is likely to be part of the spread of the disease from West Virginia. There's no reason to expect that it won't eventually come into Pennsylvania," adds Cottrell.
The commission will continue testing hunter-killed deer and elk this year, with the help of Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. And, surveillance will be increased by sampling road-killed deer adjacent to Maryland.
For more Pennsylvania's CWD-prevention plan, visit the Game Commission's website: www.pgc.state.pa.us. Click on "Wildlife" in the menu bar in the top banner, then click on "Wildlife Diseases Home," and choose "Chronic Wasting Disease."
Highest concentrations of confirmed cases are in the upper Midwest and the West. The disease belongs to a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies or prion diseases.
CWD attacks the brains of infected cervids and is always fatal. While it's similar to mad cow disease in cattle and scrapie in sheep, there's no known relationship between
CWD and other TSE found in animals or humans.
For more of a national perspective, visit the CWD Alliance's website www.cwd-info.org.