Pennsylvania farm officials are still struggling to contain chronic wasting disease, an illness that is threatening the stability and vitality of the state’s deer farms and the hunting industry.
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 confirmation of CWD in Pennsylvania brings the total number of states affected by the illness to 23.
Unlike other transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, like Mad Cow Disease, it does not appear that CWD is transmissible to humans. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention maintains that there is no evidence that the infection is zoonotic and agricultural officials have reassured Pennsylvanians that they are not in danger.
Despite the lack of zoonotic danger, game officials are still recommending that farmers avoid harvesting animals that might carry the disease.
While CWD is currently contained to the state’s deer farms, some officials believe that, despite widespread containment and monitoring efforts, it is only a matter of time until the illness spreads to the wild deer population.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer