HARRISBURG — Four captive white-tailed deer — three on a hunting preserve in Franklin County and one on a preserve in Fulton County — have tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced Friday.
The new diagnosis brings the total number of afflicted Pennsylvania deer to 44 since the disease was first discovered in the state in 2012.
Both preserves where the newly afflicted deer were found were under quarantine for the disease due to prior positive test results, the Department of Agriculture’s announcement said.
The department’s Pennsylvania Veterinary Laboratory in Harrisburg tested the deer, which were later confirmed positive at National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa.
The deer were tested as required by the department for mandatory herd surveillance on CWD-quarantined premises. Deer cannot be moved on or off these properties without permission from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no strong evidence that humans or livestock can contract Chronic Wasting Disease, which attacks the brain of infected 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 or contaminated environment. Clinical signs 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 infectious agent, known as a prion, tends to concentrate in the brain, spinal column, eyes, spleen, and lymph nodes. These high-risk parts must be properly handled and disposed of at the harvest location to prevent disease spread.
Low-risk parts such as de-boned meat, clean skull caps and capes present little risk and may be taken home.
The first cases of CWD in Pennsylvania were detected in white-tailed deer that died in 2012 on an Adams County deer farm, and wild, white-tailed deer in Blair and Bedford Counties.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture coordinates a mandatory surveillance program for the disease for 1,000 breeding farms, hobby farms and hunting preserves across the state. Since 1998, accredited veterinarians and certified CWD technicians have tested 27,000 captive deer in Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission collects samples from hunter-harvested deer and elk and wild deer that appear sick or behave abnormally.