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Cervid CWD detected in Medina County

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

A 2-year-old white tail breeding buck in a Medina County deer breeding facility has been confirmed positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). This is the first case of CWD detected in captive whitetail deer in Texas.
CWD was first detected in Texas in 2012 in free-ranging mule deer in the Hueco Mountains in far West Texas.
The Medina County tissue samples submitted by the breeder facility in early June as part of routine deer mortality surveillance revealed the presence of CWD during testing at the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) in College Station. The National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, confirmed the findings on June 30.
The buck was tested for CWD after being killed in an accident. The tissue sample submission was part of a routine deer mortality surveillance program, conducted by the State of Texas.
At the end of July, state authorities mandated that 42 additionally breeding deer, deemed to be those most susceptible to contracting CWD, be euthanized at the Texas Mountain Ranch, owned by Bob Patterson, in order to test them for the disease. Patterson's financial loss was estimated to be over $300,000. Test results are still pending.
An epidemiological investigation to determine the extent of the disease; assess risks to Texas' free ranging deer; and protect the captive deer and elk breeding industry is being led by the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), in coordination with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and US Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Veterinary Services (USDA/APHIS/VS).
Officials have taken immediate action to secure all cervids at the Medina County breeder facility with plans to conduct additional investigation for CWD. In addition, breeder facilities that have received deer from the Medina County facility or shipped deer to that facility during the last two years are under restrictions and cannot move or release cervids at this time.
Pending further review, authorities with TPWD are also prohibiting release of captive deer from all breeder facilities into the wild at this time. Additional measures to further minimize risk of CWD spreading into Texas' free-ranging white tail deer herd - and to protect the captive deer breeding industry - will be considered.
"This is a terribly unfortunate development that we are committed to addressing as proactively, comprehensively, and expeditiously as possible. The health of our state's wild and captive deer herds, as well as affiliated hunting, wildlife and rural-based economies, are vitally important to Texas hunters, communities and landowners," said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director.
"As such, our primary objectives are to determine the source of the disease and to identify other deer breeding facilities and release sites that may have received deer from affected facilities."
Smith continued, "Working collaboratively with experts in the field we have developed protocols to address CWD, and our implementation efforts are already well under way."
The TPWD and the TAHC CWD Management Plan will be used to guide the state's response to this incident. The plan was developed by the Texas' CWD Task Force, which is comprised of deer and elk breeders, wildlife biologists, veterinarians and other animal-health experts from TPWD, TAHC, TVMDL, Department of State Health Services, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and the USDA.
Since 2002, the state has conducted surveillance throughout Texas for the disease, testing more that 34,000 samples from hunter-harvested and roadkill deer for CWD.
Although animal health and wildlife officials cannot say how long or to what extent the disease has been present in the Medina County deer breeding facility, the breeder has had an active CWD surveillance program since 2006 - with no positives detected until now.
"We are working with experts at the local, state and federal level, to determine the extent of this disease and respond appropriately to limit further transmission," said Dr. Andy Schwartz, TAHC epidemiologist and assistant executive director. "Strong public awareness and the continued support of the cervid industry is paramount to the success of controlling CWD in Texas."
The disease was first recognized in 1967 in captive mule deer in Colorado. CWD has also been documented in captive and-or free-ranging deer in 23 states and two Canadian provinces. CWD among cervids is a progressive, fatal disease that commonly results in altered behavior due to 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.
To date, no evidence exists that CWD poses a risk to humans or non-cervids. However, as a precaution, the US Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend not consuming meat from infected animals.
More information on CWD can be found on TPWD's website, www.tpwd.texas.gov/CWD or at the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance website, www.cwd-info.org.
More information about the TAHC CWD program may be found at http://tahc.state.tx.us/animal_health/cwd/cwd.html.