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W.Va. faced with CWD situation

September 18, 2005|By BILL ANDERSON

As has been widely reported, the West Virginia DNR recently announced that a road-killed deer in Hampshire County tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease. According to the DNR, the agency has tested 1,322 deer for CWD since 2002 and this is the first and only to test positive. This is not good news.

CWD is a disease that attacks the brain and nervous system and is similar to, but not the same as Mad Cow in cattle and Scraple in sheep. It is thought to always be fatal in deer and elk. To date, the disease has been found in free-ranging and captive herds of deer and elk in nine states of the U.S. and two provinces in Canada.

The closest state to West Virginia where the disease has been found is New York. The state of Colorado is probably the state with the largest outbreak in both deer and elk.

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Scientists are not completely sure how the disease is transmitted from animal to animal. In using captive animals for testing, the disease has been transmitted by direct animal to animal contact and indirectly through surfaces (soil and food sources) contacted by infected animals.

The overall game plan for managing this situation for the upcoming deer season is not final at this time. The scientists say that there is no evidence that the disease can be transmitted to people, but hunters will have obvious concerns. The West Virginia DNR has announced that it has engaged the state's CWD Response Plan. Some of the highlights follow:

· One of the first efforts will be to determine the prevalence of the distribution of CWD through enhanced surveillance.

· Communicate and coordinate with the public and other agencies on issues related to CWD and the steps being taken to respond to the disease.

· Initiate appropriate management actions to control the spread of the disease, prevent further introduction of the disease, and possibly eliminate the disease from West Virginia over time.

Beginning last week, the DNR started collecting samples from deer in selected parts of Hampshire County, and the DNR collections will be supplemented by samples from road kills and deer taken on crop damage permits within the study area. You can expect this to be a major effort over the next few weeks.

Like most deer hunters, I currently have more questions and concerns than answers. My take is that the only thing we can do short term is let the professionals evaluate this situation and count on them to keep us posted on the findings and how this confirmed case will affect us this fall and in the future.

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