May 15, 2003

First Round Of Tests Finds No CWD In Missouri

State officials say that laboratory tests found no Missouri deer with chronic wasting disease (CWD). The Missouri Department of Conservation says it plans to continue testing additional deer in future years.

"The test results are encouraging, but we should remain vigilant," said Eric Kurzejeski, resource science supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation. "We need to stay on top of this to be sure we find CWD if it's elsewhere in the state, and we need to be ready to respond appropriately if it is found. We will continue to need hunters' help to accomplish that."

The Conservation Department took tissue samples from 5,972 deer killed by hunters during the November portion of the 2002 firearms deer season and had them tested for CWD. Also tested were approximately 400 deer taken by hunters in managed deer hunts and a smaller number of apparently sick deer that were reported to the Conservation Department as part of its pre-existing, targeted surveillance program. None of the deer tested positive for CWD.

The testing was the first round of the Conservation Department's three-year CWD monitoring program. It included approximately 200 deer from each of 30 counties. In the next two years, the agency plans to test another 12,000 deer from Missouri's remaining 84 counties. When complete, the program will provide a 95 percent chance of detecting CWD if it is present in the state.

In addition to the structured, statewide monitoring program, state officials will continue targeted testing of obviously sick deer reported to the Conservation or Agriculture department. Kurzejeski noted that Missouri hunters kill nearly 300,000 white-tailed deer annually and are in an excellent position to report deer that look sick.

Counties included in the 2002 monitoring program sample were Andrew, Bates, Bollinger, Caldwell, Callaway, Carroll, Chariton, Christian, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Franklin, Greene, Holt, Jasper, Jefferson, Johnson, Madison, Monroe, Pike, Platte, Ripley, Ste. Clair, St. Francis, St. Louis, Scotland, Sullivan, Taney, Texas and Warren.

"We appreciate the help of hunters who donated deer heads for testing," said Kurzejeski. "Their cooperation will continue to be critical to the state's CWD monitoring program."

The Agriculture Department regulates the importation of captive deer and elk to safeguard Missouri from several veterinary diseases, including CWD. Producers from outside Missouri must obtain entry permits for elk, elk hybrids, mule deer and white-tail deer by proving they have been in a state-recognized CWD monitoring program for at least three years. Missouri prohibits the importation of captive deer and elk that come from any portion of a state designated as a CWD endemic area or that have been held in a CWD endemic area within the past 5 years.

CWD belongs to a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, or TSEs. It shares certain characteristics with other TSEs, such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle, scrapie in sheep and Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease in humans. However, CWD is a different disease known to affect only members of the deer family.

The World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes for Health have studied CWD and found no link between it and similar human diseases.

Likewise, veterinary health officials say that all evidence to date indicates that CWD is not a threat to domesticated animals. Agriculture Department Staff Veterinarian Dr. David Hopson said current research shows no evidence that chronic wasting disease can spread to other livestock, such as cattle.

Dr. Howard Pue, public health veterinarian for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said, "I wouldn't change my lifestyle because of CWD."

For more information about CWD, visit the Conservation Department Web site, http://www.conservation.state.mo.us/hunt/deer/cwd.htm.

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