"Zombie Deer Disease", the disease of chronic wasting, is warming up in Pennsylvania


The chronic wasting disease, which some would describe as "zombie deer disease," was again found on private, deer-captive farms in Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture recently announced that a female living on a breeding farm in Bethel County, Fulton County, and a deer in a Bloom County Game Reserve, County of Clearfield, had been tested positive.

The two farms will be quarantined for 5 years, as will the Fulton County Farm where the male was purchased four weeks before harvest in the Clearfield County Game Reserve, where he was transferred and released.

Although none of the deer showed signs of CWD before her death, they were both born and raised in an area of ​​Fulton County where wild deer were tested positive for CWD testing. since 2015 and deer in captivity from 2017.

The Bloom Township Game Reserve is located a few kilometers south of the southernmost elk management area of ​​Pennsylvania and approximately 25 kilometers south of Benezette, in the heart of the Pennsylvania elk range.

CWD infects deer, elk, moose and all species of the deer family. It's always fatal. There is no treatment for an infected animal and no vaccine to protect an animal.

It is spread by direct contact with saliva, stool and urine of infected animals or a contaminated environment.

Most wildlife management agencies are motivated by hunting and hunting problems, and deer are the most hunted game species in North America. Therefore, the concern that prevails in most states is its impact on deer and deer hunting.

In states with large populations of elk and large-scale herd-based tourism, such as Pennsylvania, the potential impact on much of the economic activity raises additional concerns.

Human impact?

Agencies involved in the fight against the spread and impact of the MDC regularly note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declare that no case of infection has been reported .

However, here is what the CDC offers on its CWD website:

"To date, no case of MDC infection has been reported. However, studies in animals suggest that MDC poses a risk for certain types of nonhuman primates, such as monkeys, who eat meat from animals infected with CWD or come into contact with liquids brain or body from infected deer or elk. These studies raise fears of risks for people. Since 1997, the World Health Organization has recommended that it is important to prevent agents of all known prion diseases from entering the food chain. "

The CDC also recommends that hunters take the following measures when hunting in areas affected by CWD, "in order to be as safe as possible and to reduce their potential exposure to CWD." : "

  • Do not shoot, handle, or eat deer and elk meat that looks sick, acts strangely, or is dead as a road killer.
  • To dress a deer or handle meat, wear latex or rubber gloves.
  • Minimize your ability to handle animal organs, especially the brain or spinal cord tissues.
  • Do not use kitchen knives or other kitchen utensils to dress in the field.
  • Check the advice of the state of wildlife and public health to see if the animal test is recommended or required. The recommendations vary from state to state, but many national wildlife agencies provide information about the tests. (The Pennsylvania Game Commission recommends testing cervids killed in areas of known cervid crayfish detection.)
  • Think strongly about testing deer or elk for CWD before eating the meat.
  • If your deer or moose are processed commercially, ask that your pet be treated individually to avoid mixing the meat of several animals.
  • If your pet has a positive test for CWD, do not eat meat from this animal.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deer with chronic wasting disease have been found in 24 states.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deer with chronic wasting disease have been found in 24 states. Shutterstock

Also on its CWD website, the CDC states: "In January 2019, CWD cases of deer, elk and / or moose roaming were reported in at least 24 states in the continental United States, as well as in two Canadian provinces. In addition, MDC cases have been reported in reindeer and moose in Norway and Finland, and a small number of imported cases have been reported in South Korea. The disease has also been found in deer and elk. "

The answer from Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania became the country's 23rd state to confirm a case of CWD on October 10, 2012, when tissue samples taken from captive deer on a deer farm in New Oxford, Ontario Adams gave positive results.

This led to the creation of the first disease management area in Pennsylvania, which has since been removed.

Subsequent MDC discoveries in Pennsylvania led to the creation of another 3 remaining DMAs: DMA 2, where CWD was detected in several deer released in Bedford, Blair, Cambria and Fulton counties since 2012, and farms deer in captivity in Bedford. , Franklin and Fulton Counties in 2017; DMA 3, where it was found in 2 deer farms in captivity in Jefferson County in 2014 and a deer released in Clearfield County in 2017; and DMA 4, where he was found in a captive deer in a Lancaster County facility in 2018.

The CDC notes: "It is possible that CWD occurs in other states without effective animal monitoring systems, but these cases have not yet been detected. Once the CWD is established in an area, the risk can remain long in the environment. The affected areas are likely to continue to grow. "

The CDC cites the MDC as being caused by prions similar to mad cow disease in cattle and scrapie in goats and sheep. Prions are "abnormal pathogens, transmissible and capable of inducing abnormal folding of specific normal cellular proteins called prion proteins, which are found most abundantly in the brain. The functions of these normal prion proteins are still not completely understood. The abnormal folding of prion proteins leads to brain damage as well as the characteristic signs and symptoms of the disease. "

This cerebral aspect of the MDC has led some to call it "zombie deer disease."

Clinical signs of the disease include weight loss, excessive salivation, increased alcohol consumption and urination, and abnormal behavior such as stumbling, tremors, and depression. Infected deer can also provide a particularly close approach from humans or natural predators.

An alternative approach

In another recent CWD development, Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania, which has opposed the Game Commission's deer management program for at least 20 years, held a press conference on February 4 in the Capitund Rotunda in Harrisburg for Announce a fundraising effort to: Support an alternative research approach to defeat the MOC.

Most wildlife agencies and researchers and researchers believe that prions are the cause of CWD and try to understand prions and manage their impact on deer and other animals. But Frank Bastian, clinical professor of neurosurgery and pathology and professor of veterinary science at Louisiana State University, has conducted research on a bacterium known as spiroplasma as a cause of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) such as MDC.

On February 4, the USP announced a fundraising of $ 100,000 per year over 3 years to accelerate Bastian's work on spiroplasms, described as "the real cause of MDC" by John Eveland, a biologist with wildlife, often cited by the USP.

Within one year, he said, the USP-supported project with Bastian will produce a diagnostic kit that hunters will be able to use in the field to determine if captured deer are affected. of CWD. After two years, said Eveland, the work will produce an injectable vaccine intended primarily for deer and elk in captivity. And, in the third year, he was planning an oral or nasal vaccine against wild deer and elk.

The National Deer Alliance, a coalition of national organizations supporting deer conservation for hunters in the United States, was quick to respond to the USP announcement. The alliance issued a statement from Krysten Schuler, wildlife ecologist and co-director of the Cornell Wildlife Health Lab, who also sits on the NDA's governing council:

"There is an international agreement among scientific agencies, including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that prions would be the infectious agent responsible for TSEs. Viruses and bacteria are not considered potential causes of TSE for a number of reasons, including lack of immune response, resistance to usual disinfection procedures, environmental persistence for years, and even decades, as well as in-depth genetic studies. "

The Game Commission and the Ministry of Agriculture also reacted to the USP announcement, explaining that the two agencies "wished to point out that decades of research had provided ample evidence that prions, or misfolded proteins, were the infectious agent of MDC, and this hypothesis is accepted by national agricultural and wildlife agencies across the US Alternative theories exist, but they do not have not been thoroughly researched.

At the press conference, Pete Kingsley, treasurer of the USP, said the organization had donated $ 18,000 to the project and collected other donations ranging from $ 20 to $ 33,000 .

He commented, "The national game boards across the country have been trying to stop the disease by killing the deer for over 50 years and it has not worked, and it will never work."

Nixing a deer reduction plan

In late January, the Pennsylvania Game Commission announced a deer reduction plan for a 100 square mile area of ​​Bedford and Blair counties as part of a pilot project conducted with the US Department Wildlife agriculture to reduce the impact of the disease combat its spread.

Less than two weeks later, the commission announced that it had not received "necessary landowner support" in both counties to continue the deer reduction component.

Other phases of the project, including the installation of GPS collars on deer to study their movements and survival, will continue.

"And we hope that, by next year, increased awareness of the MDC and the threat posed by the disease to deer and elk from all over the state will bring the" " local support needed to launch the phase of the project that was suspended, "said the commission. , noting that there may still be "isolated targeted removal operations in other areas where a living CWD with a CWD was isolated".

"Although the lack of access to private land is unfortunate, it could well demonstrate that there is still much to be done to educate the public about the CWD and we will intensify our efforts to bring facts about this. disease and its potential impacts. Pennsylvania to light, "said Matthew Schnupp, director of the Bureau of Wildlife Management.

"At the present time, the CWD has only been detected in some parts of the state. Our pilot project in Bedford and Blair counties is underway, where the problem is most serious, but hunters from most parts of the state have not had to deal with the MDC at the deer that they hunt, nor to comply with the regulations to slow down its spread. "

Here's more about chronic debilitating disease in Pennsylvania:


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