Biologists Find ‘Unprecedented’ Level of CWD in Deer Farm

Biological research officials from multiple agencies have confirmed at least seven captive whitetail deer on one northeast farm were infected with chronic wasting disease, heightening concerns about the potential spread of the fatal disease.

The seven deer were identified earlier this year on a farm in Pennsylvania as having the disease, which is fatal. Deer cannot be tested for CWD unless they are dead because it affects the animal’s brain and neurological system. The number of deer in Pennsylvania now known to have the disease stands at 14.

There is a sliver lining of sorts to the recent finding, though. Because the deer had not shown any signs of the disease, before they were euthanized researchers took samples for testing. Those samples were sent to multiple agencies including the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Veterinary and Wildlife Services and USDA Agricultural Research Services.

Craig Shultz, Pennsylvania’s state veterinarian, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, that the animals were “non-suspect” because they did not show signs of CWD.

“This has provided an opportunity for some unique research to be done,” Shultz said.

Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary George Greig said in a news release that state agency officials were assisted by the farmers to help learn more about the problem. The disease has been identified in more than two dozen states and Canadian provinces.

“This is an unprecedented level of infection in a captive deer herd,” Greig of the Pennsylvania findings. “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.”

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