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From: TSS ()
Date: September 2, 2005 at 2:35 pm PST

Release #87-05
Sept. 2, 2005
For Information Contact:
Jerry Feaser


HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania Game Commission officials late today were informed that West Virginia Division of Natural Resources received confirmation that a road-killed white-tailed deer from Hampshire County, West Virginia, tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). The 2.5-year-old buck was discovered about 25 miles south of the Pennsylvania/Maryland line, due south of Bedford County, Pennsylvania.

Following Pennsylvania's CWD Response Plan, all member agencies were notified and the state's CWD Task Force Executive Committee will attempt to meet next week to discuss what actions, if any, are necessary at this time. According to the response plan, anytime CWD is identified within 50 miles of Pennsylvania's borders the Task Force Executive Committee is to meet to begin monitoring the situation.

"At this point, our only course of action is to find out more about how West Virginia officials plan to respond and what they are able to identify," said Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Management Assistant Director Bob Boyd, who has been overseeing the agency's wildlife disease issues. "In the four years that the Game Commission had been conducting tests of hunter-killed Pennsylvania elk and three years of testing random samples of hunter-killed Pennsylvania deer, we have not had one confirmed positive case.

"When the CWD Task Force Executive Committee meets, we obviously will discuss increased sampling from those areas of Pennsylvania closest to the site of this confirmed case in West Virginia."

Boyd added that tests done on Pennsylvania involved 162 elk and 6,259 deer. Also, since 1998, the Game Commission, in cooperation with the state Department of Agriculture, has tested more than 350 deer that have died of unknown illness or were exhibiting abnormal behavior. No evidence of CWD has been found in these samples. The Game Commission will continue to monitor for and collect samples from deer and elk that appear sick or behave abnormally.

Pennsylvania's CWD Task Force included representatives from the Game Commission, the Governor's Policy Office, state Department of Agriculture, state Department of Health, the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Pennsylvania.

In April, task force members held similar meetings when it was announced that two deer in Oneida County, New York, tested positive for CWD.

First identified in Colorado in 1967, CWD is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) that affects members of the deer family (cervids), including white-tailed deer and elk. It is a progressive and always fatal disease, which scientists theorize is caused by an unknown agent capable of transforming normal brain proteins into an abnormal form. Once the abnormal form is created, it changes the shape of adjacent proteins and causes holes to form in brain tissue.

There currently is no practical way to test live animals for CWD, no cure for animals that contact the disease and no vaccine to prevent an animal from contracting the disease. Clinical signs include poor posture, lowered head and ears, uncoordinated movement, rough-hair coat, decreased appetite, weight loss, increased thirst, excessive drooling, and, ultimately, death.

There is no scientific evidence of CWD being transmitted to humans or to other non-cervid livestock under normal conditions.

Deer or elk harboring CWD may not show any signs of the disease for the first 18 months, and then death follows normally within a year of when symptoms begin.

In addition to West Virginia, those states where CWD has been found in wild or captive deer or elk herds are: Colorado; Wyoming; Montana; Utah; New Mexico; New York; South Dakota; Nebraska; Kansas; Oklahoma; Minnesota; Wisconsin; and Illinois. In addition, CWD has been detected in wild or captive deer and elk in the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Anyone who sees Pennsylvania deer or elk behaving oddly, that appear to be very sick, or that are dying for unknown reasons are urged to contact the nearest Game Commission Region Office. Individuals should not kill the animal.

"We are very serious about preventing CWD from entering Pennsylvania," Boyd said. "Some scientific modeling suggests that, if nothing is done to contain an outbreak of the disease, CWD could cause a local deer population's demise within 20 to 25 years in states with high-density deer populations, such as Pennsylvania.

"We also are concerned about the potential environmental contamination that could be caused by CWD, as well as the serious economic impact that would result."

To learn more about CWD, visit the agency's website ( and click on "Hunting & Trapping" and then select "Chronic Wasting Disease." Additional information can be viewed by going to the national CWD Alliance website (, or from West Virginia Division of Natural Resources website (

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