The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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October 12, 2012

Pa. confirms first case of fatal deer disease

HARRISBURG — The state’s first case of chronic wasting disease has been found at a central Pennsylvania deer farm, and agriculture officials said Thursday they are working to prevent the fatal illness from spreading among animals.

Officials have quarantined the property in New Oxford, Adams County, where a captive white-tailed deer tested positive for the neurological disease. Farms in Williamsport, Lycoming County, and Dover, York County, are also quarantined due to direct links to the infected deer.

The animal died last month, and its owner submitted the carcass for testing as part of Pennsylvania’s monitoring program for the illness, state veterinarian Craig Shultz told the Evening Sun of Hanover.

Pennsylvania is the 23rd state to have a confirmed case of chronic wasting disease, which is deadly to deer, elk and moose, and can be spread among animals through bodily fluids.

There is no evidence the infection can be transmitted to humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The sickness has not been found in the state’s wild deer population, said Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe.

“Concerns over (chronic wasting disease) should not prevent anyone from enjoying deer hunting and consuming meat from healthy animals.” Roe said in a statement.

Still, Roe said that hunters should shoot only healthy-looking animals, and take precautions like wearing rubber gloves when field-dressing their deer and washing thoroughly when finished.

Symptoms of chronic wasting disease include weight loss, excessive salivation, increased drinking and urination, and abnormal behavior like stumbling, trembling and depression. There is no cure or vaccine.  

Public education and outreach efforts are being coordinated by a state task force that includes representatives of the departments of Agriculture, Environmental Protection and Health, as well as the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Pennsylvania has an aggressive chronic wasting disease surveillance program and a strong response plan,” state Agriculture Secretary George Greig said in a statement.

Chronic wasting disease was first discovered in Colorado captive mule deer in 1967. Pennsylvania has conducted monitoring for the illness since 1998.

 

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