Pennsylvania captive deer tests positive for chronic wasting disease

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HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture reports a captive deer has tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Pennsylvania. This is the third case of CWD discovered in a captive deer farm in four months.

The 5-year-old white-tailed deer died on a farm in Fulton County, the same premises on which it was born and raised, in April, 2017.

Samples from this deer tested positive for the disease at the Pennsylvania Veterinary Laboratory in Harrisburg. The test results were confirmed by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, April 28, 2017.

Chronic wasting disease attacks the brain of infected deer, elk and moose, producing small lesions that eventually result in death. Animals in those species can get the disease through direct contact with saliva, feces and urine from an infected animal.

Disease symptoms

Symptoms include weight loss, excessive salivation, increased drinking and urination, and abnormal behavior like stumbling, trembling and depression. Infected deer and elk also may allow unusually close approach by humans or natural predators.

The disease is fatal and there is no known treatment or vaccine.

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

The first cases of CWD in Pennsylvania were detected when two Adams County deer tested positive for CWD in 2012. Surveillance for the disease has been ongoing in Pennsylvania since 1998.

The Department of Agriculture coordinates a mandatory surveillance program for more than 21,000 captive deer on 1,000 breeding farms, hobby farms and hunting preserves.

Tested positive

Thirteen captive deer have tested positive since 2012. Other recent cases include one deer harvested from a hunting preserve in Franklin County in November 2016 and one deer from a breeding operation in Bedford County in January 2017.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission collects samples from hunter-harvested deer and elk, as well as those that appear sick or behave abnormally.

In areas where CWD has been detected in captive or free-ranging deer, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has responded by creating disease management areas (DMAs), within which special rules apply regarding the hunting and feeding of wild deer.

The Fulton County deer farm is located within DMA 2, the only area of the state where CWD has been detected in wild deer.

Deer farms where animals have tested positive for CWD are quarantined to minimize the spread of the disease.

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