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Fish and Wildlife Service Still Ranks Chronic Wasting Disease as Number One Wildlife Issue

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The Association of Fish and Wildlife (AFWA) federal appropriations recommendations for the 2014 budget still put chronic wasting disease (CWD) as the number one wildlife health issue, with funding recommended at $20 million. Despite the rise in CWD throughout wildlife populations, it has become a lower priority for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as it has decreased in captive cervid herds.

Chronic Wasting Disease is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) of whitetailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. TSEs are caused by unusual infection agents known as prions, and have only been found in the cervids (members of the deer family). CWD was first recognized in 1967 in mule deer and has continued to spread across the country since, with a recent detection in Washburn County, WI in the northwestern part of the state. In the endemic area of south-central Wisconsin, prevalence of the disease in adult male deer has increased from 8% to 18%.

The USDA suggests the next major driver for their wildlife disease program may be feral swine, due to their environmental and agricultural damage in the United States. Other wildlife health issues such as African swine fever have become major concerns in Europe, though not in the United States.

Photos courtesy topsecretwriters.com (deer) and CDC (map)

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