Virginia probes new CWD detection as Minnesota culls farm deer

Young white-tailed buck
Young white-tailed buck

Larry Smith / Flickr cc

In the latest chronic wasting disease (CWD) developments, Virginia's Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) has confirmed the condition in a buck legally harvested in November in Culpeper County, 40 miles from where other CWD-positive deer have been reported. And Minnesota officials said all deer have been depopulated from a Crow Wing County farm first infected with the disease in 2016.

CWD is caused by abnormally shaped proteins, called prions, that can damage nerve and brain tissue. A fatal, progressive disease, CWD has been found in North American whitetail and mule deer, elk, and moose.

The disease is likely transmitted by infected deer shedding prions in saliva, feces, urine, and other fluids or tissues. The disease is fatal in animals, and, while no human cases have been recorded, consuming infected meat is not advised.

Virginia finding far from other detections

In Virginia, the sample that tested positive was submitted by a taxidermist in January, according to an Apr 19 report from Potomac Local, a local news site based in Virginia. A press release from the Virginia DGIF said the hunter did not notice any outward disease signs and the buck appeared to be in good condition.

Though CWD has been documented in northwestern Virginia for more than 9 years, the deer that recently tested positive was harvested 40 miles from the nearest CWD-positive deer in Frederick or Shenandoah counties.

Officials said it's too early to characterize the geographic spread of the disease in Culpeper County or to gauge how many deer in the area are infected. DGIF said because CWD wasn't confirmed in Culpeper County until after deer season closed, it wasn't able to work with local hunters to test large numbers of deer from the county. It added that officials will do preliminary disease surveillance in Culpeper and neighboring counties this spring and summer to assess the scope of CWD in the area.

Officials warned that in Virginia and other states it can take several years to clarify the true extent of a CWD outbreak.

According to background information from the DGIF, Virginia has tested more than 14,500 deer since 2002, and, as of April, 68 have bested positive since 2009.

Minnesota depopulates deer farm

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health (MBAH) recently announced that deer on a Crow Wing County farm where CWD was detected in 2016 have been depopulated and that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is providing indemnity to the owner as part of disease control efforts.

State officials are coordinating with the USDA to collect tissues from the deer for CWD testing and said they will report the results as soon as they are available.

Linda Glaser, DVM, the board's assistant director, said results from the USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratory are expected in the coming weeks. "We've already developed a herd plan with the owner on how to handle the property now that the deer are gone," she said. "At this point, any CWD positive results do not change our disease response, because we already know the site held CWD positive deer and have been treating it as such."

The site that was depopulated was the only CWD-positive farm in Minnesota operating under a herd plan with live animals. As of the last action, all of the state's CWD-positive deer farms are empty. Mandatory CWD monitoring of all other farmed cervid herds is ongoing, and no CWD-positive detections have been reported.

See also:

Apr 19 Potomac Local story

Virginia DGIF information for hunting in Culpeper and surrounding counties

Virginia DGIF background information

Apr 17 MBAH press release

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