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Latest case of chronic wasting disease causes concern among PA Game Commission

Centre County - The latest case of chronic wasting disease found in Clearfield County has state wildlife officials concerned. 

A free-ranging buck in Bell Township tested positive for chronic wasting disease and now the Pennsylvania Game Commission is concerned that it could spread to the near by elk population.

In 2014, there were two cases of chronic wasting disease within two different captive farms in Jefferson County -- which were then de-populated. 

This is the first time that a wild deer within the game commissions’ disease management area three has tested positive of the disease. 

What has the game commission is that it has reached the free-ranging population and was found about 10 miles away from the state's elk range. 

The deer was also in the showing symptoms of the disease, which causes concerns that it was spread.  

If we catch one in a situation like this, where it's clinically ill. It means we're catching it later on in infection and likely this animal was shedding these poisons, so from a management perspective it's...a little bit more of a challenge,” PA Game Commission Veterinarian Justin Brown said.

According to the game commission, Bedford and Blair counties have the highest cases of chronic wasting disease. 

Pennsylvania had its first confirmed case of chronic wasting disease in 2012 with a captive deer in Adams county.

That same year, the game commission tested hunter-harvested deer across the state but found three cases of the disease in Bedford and Blair counties, which became the second disease management area.  

"Every year since 2012, we've found more positives in DMA two and it's continued to expand because as we start to get deer further out from that core area where we had those original three, we expand that management area," Brown said.  

Brown said that since then, Bedford and Blair counties have seen the highest number of positive cases in the state, specifically around the I-99 corridor. 

Since the number of cases is so high in these areas, the game commission does recommend getting harvested deer tested.

"Are you hunting in an area where they have CWD? If you are, a recommendation is to have your animal tested if you are in sort of those management areas," Brown said. 

According to the CDC, there is no evidence that the disease can be transmitted to humans but still recommends not to consume infected meat while research continues. 

Another area being researched is how to prevent disease transmission from wild animals to captive ones. 

"We may be doing some research here in the near future of some, trying out some different types of fence design to see what works the best to keep the animals separate," Unit Manager of the Penn State Deer Research Center Don Wagner.

A two-layer fence design could eliminate a nose-to-nose contact, which is one of the ways the disease could be spread.

Once again, the game commission does recommend getting your deer tested since they usually don't show signs of infection for at least a year. 

For more information on how to avoid exposure and CWD, click HERE


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