LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa.– The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture today announced that two additional captive deer have tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Pennsylvania, bringing the total to 46 since the disease was discovered in Pennsylvania in 2012.
The disease was confirmed in one white-tailed deer on a hunting preserve in Bedford County, and one at a Lancaster County breeding operation. Both deer were born and raised on their respective premises, and these are the first CWD-positives discovered on either farm. Both operations are now under quarantine. This is the first CWD-positive test result in a Lancaster County captive deer.
CWD 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 deboned 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 860 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.