BEDFORD, Pa. (WTAJ) — Chronic Wasting Disease is a fatal, neurological disease that infects animals such as deer, elk, moose, and reindeer. Of the 218 cases currently known across Pennsylvania, 113 are in Bedford County.
The first case of Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD, was found in 2013 and officials have been working to control the spread ever since.
“Once they get it there is no cure for it,” said Amy Nabozny, information & education supervisor for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Southcentral Region.
CWD is spread through proteins, or prion, not a virus or bacteria. The proteins kill brain cells, eventually causing the animals to die.
Nabozny said the spread is hard to control.
“If an infected animal basically urinates, defecates into that area that prion is now deposited into the soil or into the environment,” said Nabozny.
As vegetation grows through that soil, another animal can come along, eat it, and become infected.
“That prions going to exist in that environment for a long time,” said Nabozny. “It can also spread through saliva, nose to nose contact, and things in that regard as well.”
To try and control this, the Pennsylvania Game Commission created Disease Management Areas. Three DMA’s are currently active and cover about 8,000 square miles.
“We try to maintain… high-risk parts stay into this disease management area, they don’t leave that disease management area, and then that helps to slow the spread,” said Nabozny.
They say hunters play a key role, and can harvest antler-less deer in the 2020 2021 season with a special permit. Hunters can submit these deer for testing to find the extent of CWD in the area.
While Nabozney said there’s no direct link to consuming the meat of an infected deer and becoming sick yourself, the game commission does not recommend it.