On October 11, 2012 the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture confirmed the first positive case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in the state on a deer farm in Adams County.

This makes Pennsylvania the 23rd state to confirm the disease which affects, and can be fatal, in deer, elk and moose. At this time, there has been no evidence that the disease may be transmitted to humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

Last month a whitetail deer died in the borough of New Oxford. Its owner submitted it for testing as part of Pennsylvania’s intensive CWD monitoring efforts. Two other farms directly associated with the Adams County location were also quarantined. The two farms are at 6464 Jacks Hollow Rd., Williamsport, Lycoming County, and 61 Pickett Rd., Dover, York County.

A press release (pdf) from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture states,

“Pennsylvania has an aggressive Chronic Wasting Disease surveillance program and a strong response plan,” said Agriculture Secretary George Greig. “Steps are being taken to prevent further spread of this disease to the state’s captive and wild deer populations.”

…”To date CWD has not been found in Pennsylvania’s wild deer population,” said Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe. “Concerns over CWD should not prevent anyone from enjoying deer hunting and consuming meat from healthy animals.”

Roe said that hunters should shoot only healthy-appearing animals, and take precautions like wearing rubber gloves when field-dressing their deer and wash thoroughly when finished.

“Though no human disease has been associated with CWD, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people or other animals do not eat any part of an animal diagnosed with or showing signs of CWD,” said Acting Health Secretary Michael Wolf.

CWD attacks the brains of infected deer, elk and moose, producing small lesions that eventually result in death. It is transmitted by direct animal-to-animal contact through saliva, feces and urine.

Signs of the disease include weight loss, excessive salivation, increased drinking and urination, and abnormal behavior like stumbling, trembling and depression. Infected deer and elk may also allow unusually close approach by humans or natural predators. The disease is fatal and there is no known treatment or vaccine.

For more information from the departments of Agriculture and Health and the Pennsylvania Game Commission, visit:

Image from Jon Dawson (jmd41280) on the flickr Creative Commons

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