The list of Pennsylvania deer farms with confirmed cases of chronic wasting disease has grown to 12, state agricultural officials reported, with investigators still attempting to track down all deer that might have been exposed to the illness. Farm officials expect the list of infected farms to grow.
CWD was first identified in mule deer at a Colorado wildlife research facility in the 60s. Transmitted through abnormal proteins, known as prions, typically found in the central nervous system, the disease is progressive and universally fatal. Initial symptoms include weight loss, listlessness, and blank facial expressions.
The disease is spread by deer’s urine, feces, and saliva. The prions responsible can remain active in the soil for years, making the illness easy to spread and difficult to track.
The confirmation of CWD in Pennsylvania brings the total number of states affected by the illness to 23.
The initial reports of the disease activated the State Department of Agriculture’s CWD response plan, which consists of depopulating deer at the site of the initial discovery and tracking all deer that might have come into contact with infected deer from ground zero.
The tracking process is proving difficult, however. According to state officials, the first casualty of CWD may have come into contact with deer from hundreds of farms, meaning that the quarantine list is likely to grow rapidly in the coming weeks.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer