The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced recently that a captive deer has tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Pennsylvania. This is the first new case in a captive deer farm since 2014.

Fawn whitetail deer. Image/Lynn Betts, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Fawn whitetail deer. Image/Lynn Betts, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The four-year-old white-tailed deer was harvested from a hunting preserve in Franklin County in November 2016. Samples from this deer tested positive for the disease at the Pennsylvania Veterinary Laboratory in Harrisburg. The test results were confirmed by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa on January 5, 2017. This deer was raised on a deer farm in Fulton County until it was sold to the Franklin County facility in August 2016. Both farms are under quarantine. The investigation continues and additional herds may be quarantined.

“We are working to minimize the risk to Pennsylvania’s deer herd by quarantining both farms and tracing any contacts with other deer in our efforts to find the source of CWD, if possible,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell C. Redding. “We want to stress that CWD is no danger to public health and has never been associated as a human health concern.”

There is no strong evidence that humans or livestock can contract Chronic Wasting Disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chronic Wasting Disease 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.

Symptoms include weight loss, excessive salivation, increased drinking and urination, and abnormal behavior like stumbling, trembling and depression. Infected deer and elk also may allow unusually close approach by humans or natural predators. The disease is fatal and there is no known treatment or vaccine.

The first cases of CWD in Pennsylvania were detected when two Adams County deer tested positive for CWD in 2012. Surveillance for the disease has been ongoing in Pennsylvania since 1998.