Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) officials have confirmed Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in an elk located within the South-Central Texas CWD Zone. The elk was harvested on a high fenced premises with common management as a property where whitetailed deer were previously confirmed to have CWD.

Elk Image/Leupold Jim, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Image/Leupold Jim, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

This case was detected as part of the ranch’s herd management plan, which was developed by TAHC to assess the ranch’s risk of CWD.

CWD has been found in free-ranging elk across the United States, including New Mexico and Colorado. This is the second known elk in Texas to test positive for CWD. The first CWD positive elk in Texas was a free-ranging elk harvested in Dallam County on December 6, 2016.

Due to CWD being found in white-tailed deer, mule deer and elk, TAHC established movement and surveillance requirements for exotics in CWD Zones and statewide on May 30, 2017. Statewide surveillance requires all eligible mortalities of exotic CWD susceptible species be tested until such time that three animals are tested.

LISTEN: Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) and other prion diseases

CWD was first recognized in 1967 in captive mule deer in Colorado. The first case of CWD in Texas was discovered in 2012 in free-ranging mule deer in an isolated area of far West Texas.

CWD is a progressive, fatal disease of cervids that commonly results in altered behavior as a result of microscopic changes made to the brain of affected animals. An animal may carry the disease for years without outward indication, but in the latter stages, signs may include listlessness, lowering of the head, weight loss, repetitive walking in set patterns, and a lack of responsiveness. CWD is not known to affect humans, however, recent studies suggest there may be a risk to non-human primates that consume CWD infected meat, therefore, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend not to consume meat from infected animals.