Deer from Infected Jefferson County Farm Provide Researchers with Valuable Insight on Chronic Wasting Disease

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Seven deer testing positive for Chronic Wasting Disease are providing researchers with valuable samples and insights on combating the deadly disease.

The deer from an infected Reynoldsville, Jefferson County farm tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease. Two other white-tailed deer died in April on the farm and tested positive for the disease. This marks the 14th white-tailed deer in the state to test positive for the disease since 2012.

“Chronic Wasting Disease is making its way across the state and we’re doing everything we can to stop its spread,” said Agriculture Secretary George Greig. “By working with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, state and national deer farmers associations and researchers from across the nation, we can better combat the disease.”

The department set out to provide as much information as possible to aid researchers to develop better diagnostic methods. It granted permission for researchers from Kansas State University, in cooperation with state and national deer farming associations, to take samples from the live deer. The samples are being used to study potential live-animal diagnostic tests to detect the disease.

Postmortem samples were distributed to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Veterinary and Wildlife Services and USDA Agricultural Research Services for additional research about the disease.

“This is an unprecedented level of infection in a captive deer herd,” said Greig. “The department and deer farmers worked together to accommodate the requests of these researchers. The more we know, the greater the chance we can eradicate the disease.”

An investigation continues into any other deer farms that may have purchased or supplied the Reynoldsville herd with deer. Additional herds may be quarantined.

Chronic Wasting Disease attacks the brains of infected antlered animals such as deer, elk and moose, producing small lesions that eventually result in death. Animals can get the disease through direct contact with saliva, feces and urine from an infected animal.

There is no evidence that humans or livestock can get the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Symptoms include weight loss, excessive salivation, increased drinking and urination, and abnormal behavior like stumbling, trembling and depression. Infected deer and elk may also allow unusually close approach by humans or natural predators. The disease is fatal and there is no known treatment or vaccine.

Two Adams County deer tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease in 2012. During the investigation the department quarantined 27 farms in 16 counties associated with the positive samples. Since then, five farms remain quarantined.

Surveillance for the disease has been ongoing in Pennsylvania since 1998.

The Department of Agriculture coordinates a mandatory surveillance program for more than 23,000 captive deer on 1,100 breeding farms, hobby farms and shooting preserves.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission collects samples from hunter-harvested deer and elk and those that appear sick or behave abnormally. Since 1998, the commission has tested more than 38,000 free-ranging deer and elk for the disease. Five wild deer have tested positive for the disease since 2013.

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