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More CWD cases confirmed at quarantined deer-breeding facility

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

An unlucky 13 new cases of chronic wasting disease (CWD) were confirmed at a captive white-tail deer breeding facility in Medina County on June 29 – just a year after the fatal disease first appeared in the Texas white-tail population.
In June 2015, the incurable disease that affects cervids, including Texas’ annual $2.2 billion cash crop of whitetail deer, was discovered in a breeding facility in Medina County, just miles from Tarpley in Bandera County. The discovery created significant concern among wildlife professionals, deer breeders and hunting industry professionals.
Administrators with the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) officials discovered the new cases while conducting an epidemiological investigation on the quarantined facility in Medina County. The facility had been put on quarantine after a 3½-year-old captive white-tailed doe tested positive for CWD last April. Born and raised on-site, the doe died on-site of natural causes at the breeding facility where the disease had not previously been found.
The doe was tested for CWD due to increased surveillance testing required by the facility’s TAHC herd plan. The herd plan was developed to assess the risk of CWD in the facility because of its association with the first Texas CWD positive herd. Diagnostic sampling funds from the United States Department of Agriculture paid for the testing.
Of the 33 samples submitted to National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) for testing, 13 revealed the presence of CWD prions. Officials with TAHC and TPWD will work closely with the facility owner to develop future testing strategies to assess the CWD disease prevalence within the facility.
Including these new positive cases, 25 total white-tailed deer originating from captive white-tailed deer breeding facilities have been confirmed positive for CWD in the state, including the initial CWD positive deer detected in June 2015.
Local officials noted that the CWD-positive deer were discovered at an intense breeding facility – with a quantity of deer in close proximity to one another. “If 13 deer had been discovered on land that supported just one or two deer per 20 acres, there would be more cause for concern,” said Bandera County Judge Richard Evans in an interview on Friday, July 1.
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 24 states and two Canadian provinces.
In Texas, the disease was first discovered in 2012 in free-ranging mule deer along a remote area of the Hueco Mountains near the Texas-New Mexico border. Additionally, earlier this year, a free ranging mule deer buck harvested in Hartley County was confirmed CWD positive.
CWD among cervids is a progressive, fatal disease 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 symptoms. However, in the latter stages of the disease, signs may include listlessness, lowering of the head, weight loss, repetitive walking in set patterns and a lack of responsiveness.
Although comparable to mad cow disease, to date there is no evidence 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 to consume meat from infected animals.
More information on CWD can be found on TPWD's website, http://www.tpwd.texas.gov/CWD or at the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance website, http://www.cwd-info.org.
More information about the TAHC CWD program may be found at http://www.tahc.state.tx.us/animal_health/cwd/cwd.html.
For questions pertaining to Texas Animal Health Commission, contact Callie Ward at 512-719-0750 or callie.ward@tahc.texas.gov.
For questions pertaining to Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept., contact Tom Harvey at 512-389-4453 or tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov.
During the last hunting season in Bandera County, TPW officials sampled a number of hunter-harvested deer within five miles of the index site. However, none of the samples tested positive for CWD.