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.”
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.
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.
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture