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Chronic Wasting Disease

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November 10, 2002

In late October in Winnebago County, located in north central Illinois, just northeast of the town of Roscoe, Illinois, a doe was shot by a farmer because it appeared to display symptoms indicative of Chronic Wasting Disease. Testing proved positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), confirming the farmer’s suspicion.

Is there reason to panic? At this point, I would say no! First we need to assess the deer’s origination. Did this deer cross into Illinois from Wisconsin? Did this deer escape, or was it released from a deer farm? Stranger things have occurred with mink and other wildlife farms across the United States. Subsequently, further investigation is needed to determine as best as possible from where this deer originated, before we jump to the conclusion that CWD is infecting the deer of Illinois.

To reiterate some basic precautions:

  1. Wear gloves when field dressing your deer.
  2. Assess the inside of your deer for fat, as CWD decreases the ability of the deer to digest its food. It would not be uncommon to see decreased, or nonexistent fat in a deer. That would be a red flag.
  3. De-bone the meat from your deer. Do not cut into the bones. There are testing kits available.
    The Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources has banned the use of mineral or salt blocks to feed deer.
  4. Do not feed deer crack corn or any other grain as the deer will herd together, increasing the changes of transmission of CWD.
  5. Birdfeeders close to the house are allowable.
  6. Below is a list of regional office phone numbers for the Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources. If you suspect your deer, or perhaps a deer you have seen in the field, of being infected with CWD, please call the appropriate number:
    Springfield wildlife office: (217) 782-6384
    Region 1 – Sterling, IL: (815) 625-2968
    Region 2 – Barlett, IL: (815) 675-2385
    Region 3 – Champaign, IL: (217) 278-5773
    Region 4 – Alton, IL: (618) 462-1181
    Region 5 – Benton, IL: (618) 435-8138

Should you have any questions, please contact your regional phone number. Updates will be forthcoming.

Original Article

Chronic wasting disease is transmissible spongiform encephalopathy of deer and elk. It was first recognized as a wasting type syndrome in Mule deer 1967, and identified in Colorado, Southeastern Wyoming, Nebraska. The herds in those areas have been quarantined. Animals have been slaughtered, tested, and their carcasses are usually incinerated.

The first farmed herd in the United States testing positive for Chronic Wasting Disease was detected in South Dakota in 1997. Since that time, there have been 16 additional positive herds identified in South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma and Montana.

Species that have been affected with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) include the Rocky Mountain Elk, Mule deer, White-tailed deer and Black-tailed deer.

Chronic Wasting Disease is well-documented in the State of Wisconsin. This has caused great concern, given the financial impact it will have on the hunting industry and businesses in the area associated with hunting.

Causative agent: The agent that causes Chronic Wasting Disease is a spongiform encephalopathy. Infecting agent is a Prion, an abnormal form of a normal protein known as a cellular Prion protein, which is commonly found in the central nervous system. This infects the animal by converting some of the brain cells to literally spongy-type cells, thus inhibiting the ability to digest appropriately. The infected animal basically wastes away, unable to digest food. This agent is much smaller than a viral particle. It is also resistant to heat and normal disinfectant procedures.

Most Chornic Wasting Disease cases occur in adult animals. The disease is progressive and is always fatal. There is some concern that there is potential for transmission to humans via ingestion of meat from infected animals. At this time, there is not enough data available on the subject to make this determination. We know that Mad Cow Disease can be transmitted to humans. Chornic Wasting Disease is similar to Mad Cow Disease; however, there has been NO documented evidence to date that it can be transmitted to humans by ingestion of infected meat.

Transmission: It is believed that the transmission of Chronic Wasting Disease occurs laterally, from animal to animal, possibly through the saliva, although maternal transmission could occur.

For additional information write to Dr. Miller in Ft. Collins, Colorado at mike.miller@state.co.us or write to Dr. Tom Thorne with Wyoming Game and Fish Dept. His e-mail address is storm@uwyo.edu.

For information on CWD and Wisconsin deer, go to www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/wildlife/whealth/issues/cwd/. This is an excellent website for reference maps on Chronic Wasting Disease and what they are doing about this unfortunate problem.

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