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Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)



Chronic wasting disease (CWD) affects the brain and nervous system of infected cervids (deer, elk and moose) eventually resulting in death.

Current Status:
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been detected in three locations in Pennsylvania: a captive deer farm in Adams County (Fall 2012); free-ranging deer in Blair and Bedford counties (2012 firearms season); and a captive deer farm in Jefferson county (Spring 2014). Following the detection of CWD in both captive and free-ranging deer in Pennsylvania, an executive order was issued by the Game Commission to establish Disease Management Areas (DMAs). Within DMAs, rehabilitation of cervids (deer, elk and moose); the use or possession of cervid urine-based attractants in an outdoor setting; the removal of high-risk cervid parts; and the feeding of wild, free-ranging cervids are prohibited. Increased testing continues in these areas to determine the distribution of the disease. Newly confirmed cases will alter the boundaries of DMAs as the Game Commission continues to manage the disease and minimize its affect on free ranging cervids.

Fast Facts:
  • Chronic wasting disease has been found within the Commonwealth. Disease Management Areas (DMAs) have been established to help address this concern.
  • Within DMAs, rehabilitation of cervids (deer, elk and moose); the use or possession of cervid urine-based attractants in an outdoor setting; and the feeding of wild, free-ranging cervids are prohibited.
  • If CWD is detected in any sample, the hunter will be notified and personally visited by a Game Commission staff member.
  • If you want assurance that your deer will be tested for CWD, you can submit your harvested deer to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA*) for testing at a cost of $77.00 using their Chronic Wasting Disease Submission Form.
  • Deer carcasses and high-risk parts should never be put out on the landscape, but rather be disposed of with trash that is deposited in a landfill.
  • Removing high-risk parts from any DMA is prohibited, with the exception of taking them to Game Commission-approved locations outside any DMA. A list of approved locations will be available this fall.
  • If you see a deer or elk that you believe is sick, do not disturb or attempt to kill or remove the animal. Accurately document the location of the animal and immediately contact the nearest Game Commission region office.

To learn more about chronic wasting disease, and precautions in place to limit its influence on Pennsylvania's wild deer populations, please explore the following:

For Hunters:
DMA2 Antlerless Permit for Disease Managment Area 2
Simple Precautions When Pursing or Handling Deer & Elk (CWDA*)
Field Dressing, Boning and Home Processing: VIDEOS (CWDA*)
You can submit your harvested deer to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA*) for testing at a cost of $77.00 using their Chronic Wasting Disease Submission Form.
Hunters traveling outside of Pennsylvania should consult State and Province CWD Regulations (CWDA*)
Hunting & Trapping Digest CWD pages, 49-51
.

For Taxidermists & Processors
Every meat processor should know . . .
Every taxidermist should know . . .

What is CWD?
Frequently Asked Questions
Chronic Wasting Disease in Pennsylvania brochure 
Shedding Light on chronic wasting disease: VIDEO (CWDA*)

CWD in Pennsylvania
Cervid Parts Importation Ban
CWD Executive Order
Map of Disease Management Area 1 (DMA 1) in Adams and York counties
Map of Disease Management Area 2 (DMA 2) in Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Fulton and Huntingdon counties
Map of Disease Management Area 3 (DMA 3) in Clearfield and Jefferson counties
Pennsylvania CWD Response Plan

*Resources:
Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance (CWDA)
Captive Cervid Breeding Fact Sheet (The Wildlife Society)
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) CWD webpage


What Every Meat Processor Should Know
About Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

What is Chronic Wasting Disease?
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a member of the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE) family of diseases that includes Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or Mad Cow Disease in cattle; Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans; and Scrapie in sheep and goats. It was first recognized in Colorado deer and elk in 1967. The specific cause of CWD is believed to be an abnormal prion (protein infectious particle) that is found in the brain, the nervous system and some lymphoid tissues of infected animals. It causes death of brain cells, and on a microscopic level, holes in the brain tissue.

What animals get CWD?
CWD has been diagnosed in white-tailed deer, mule deer, black-tailed deer and hybrids thereof, as well as elk, red deer, and moose. There is no evidence that CWD is transmissible to humans or traditional livestock. However, it is recommended that meat from CWD-positive animals not be consumed.

How is CWD transmitted?
CWD is transmitted both directly through animal-to-animal contact and indirectly through food and soil contaminated with bodily excretions including feces, urine and saliva. Contaminated carcasses or high-risk carcass parts may also spread the disease indirectly through environmental contamination which last for decades.

What are the signs of CWD?
Animals infected with CWD do no show signs of infection for months (12+ months). Late stages of CWD-infected animals include a extreme loss of body condition; excessive drinking, urination, salivation and drooling; and behavioral and neurologic changes such as repetitive walking patterns, droopy ears, a wide-based stance and listlessness. Some animals lose their fear of humans and predators. There is no known cure. There are many look-alike diseases and many that can occur at the same time as CWD.

What actions have been taken to prevent the spread of CWD?
The movement of high-risk carcass parts (brain, spinal cord, lymph tissues) is a potential avenue through which CWD could be spread. Many states, including Pennsylvania, have developed regulations to prohibit the importation of high-risk carcass parts from CWD endemic states and provinces. Pennsylvania's importation ban prohibits the importation of high-risk carcass parts from these areas. Pennsylvanians hunting in CWD-positive areas are also subject to high-risk parts movement restrictions. These parts may not be removed from the designated Disease Management Areas (DMAs).

Specific carcass parts, where the CWD prion (causative agent) concentrates are: head (including brain, tonsils, eyes and all lymph nodes); spinal cord and smaller nerves; spleen; upper canine teeth, if root structure is present; any object or article containing visible brain or spinal cord material; unfinished taxidermy mounts or brain-tanned hides.

Pennsylvania's high-risk carcass parts ban does not limit the importation of: meat, without the backbone; skull plate with attached antlers, if no visible brain or spinal cord material is present; tanned hide or raw hide with no visible brain or spinal cord material present; cape, if no visible brain or spinal cord material is present; upper canine teeth, if no root structure is present or finished taxidermy mounts. These same parts may be moved out of Pennsylvania's DMAs.

What can you do as a meat processor to prevent the spread of CWD?
Determine if the cervid carcass presented to you is from a CWD-positive state or area, including Pennsylvania's DMAs.

  1. If the cervid carcass IS NOT from a CWD-positive state or area:
    1. Wear latex or rubber gloves when processing the carcass.
    2. Bone the carcass to minimize cutting into high-risk parts.
    3. Avoid cutting into the backbone, either lengthwise or across the spine.
    4. Dispose of butcher waste through the trash, or in food waste dumpsters intended for regulated landfills.
  2. If the cervid carcass IS from a CWD-positive state or area:
    1. If high-risk parts are present, contact your Game Commission region office for disposal procedures.
    2. If no high-risk parts are present proceed according to the recommendations in item 1a. and 1b. above.
    3. Thoroughly clean hands and processing tools with soap and water; then sanitize tools in a solution of 50 percent household chlorine bleach and 50 percent water for one hour.
    4. Keep all cervid meat and meat products from CWD-positive or suspect animals separated from other meat.
    5. CWD-positive meat or waste should not be rendered, burned in burn barrels, deposited in bone piles or spread in areas where it can come in contact with other animals. Contact your Game Commission region office for pick up of potentially contaminated material.

What Every Taxidermist Should Know
About Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

What is Chronic Wasting Disease?
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a member of the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE) family of diseases that includes Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or Mad Cow Disease in cattle; Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans; and Scrapie in sheep and goats. It was first recognized in Colorado deer and elk in 1967. The specific cause of CWD is believed to be an abnormal prion (protein infectious particle) that is found in the brain, the nervous system and some lymphoid tissues of infected animals. It causes death of brain cells, and on a microscopic level, holes in the brain tissue.

What animals get CWD?
CWD has been diagnosed in white-tailed deer, mule deer, black-tailed deer and hybrids thereof, as well as elk, red deer, and moose. There is no evidence that CWD is transmissible to humans or traditional livestock. However, it is recommended that meat from CWD-positive animals not be consumed.

How is CWD transmitted?
CWD is transmitted both directly through animal-to-animal contact and indirectly through food and soil contaminated with bodily excretions including feces, urine and saliva. Contaminated carcasses or high-risk carcass parts may also spread the disease indirectly through environmental contamination which last for decades.

What are the signs of CWD?
Animals infected with CWD do no show signs of infection for months (12+ months). Late stages of CWD-infected animals include a extreme loss of body condition; excessive drinking, urination, salivation and drooling; and behavioral and neurologic changes such as repetitive walking patterns, droopy ears, a wide-based stance and listlessness. Some animals lose their fear of humans and predators. There is no known cure. There are many look-alike diseases and many that can occur at the same time as CWD.

What actions have been taken to prevent the spread of CWD?
The movement of high-risk carcass parts (brain, spinal cord, lymph tissues) is a potential avenue through which CWD could be spread. Many states, including Pennsylvania, have developed regulations to prohibit the importation of high-risk carcass parts from CWD endemic states and provinces. Pennsylvania's importation ban prohibits the importation of high-risk carcass parts from these areas. Pennsylvanians hunting in CWD-positive areas are also subject to high-risk parts movement restrictions. These parts may not be removed from the designated Disease Management Areas (DMAs).

Specific carcass parts, where the CWD prion (causative agent) concentrates are: head (including brain, tonsils, eyes and all lymph nodes); spinal cord and smaller nerves; spleen; upper canine teeth, if root structure is present; any object or article containing visible brain or spinal cord material; unfinished taxidermy mounts or brain-tanned hides.

Pennsylvania's high-risk carcass parts ban does not limit the importation of: meat, without the backbone; skull plate with attached antlers, if no visible brain or spinal cord material is present; tanned hide or raw hide with no visible brain or spinal cord material present; cape, if no visible brain or spinal cord material is present; upper canine teeth, if no root structure is present or finished taxidermy mounts. These same parts may be moved out of Pennsylvania's DMAs.

What can you do as a taxidermist to prevent the spread of CWD?
Determine if the specimen presented to you is from a CWD-positive state or area, including Pennsylvania's DMAs.

  1. If the specimen IS NOT from a CWD-positive state or area (including Pennsylvania DMAs):
    1. Wear latex or rubber gloves when working on the specimen.
    2. Thoroughly clean hands and taxidermy tools with soap and water; then sanitize tools in a solution of 50 percent household chlorine bleach and 50 percent water for one hour.
    3. Dispose of carcass parts through the trash, or in food waste dumpsters intended for regulated landfills.
    4. Do not allow animals to have access to your taxidermy area or taxidermy waste.
  2. If the specimen IS from a CWD-positive state or area (including Pennsylvania DMAs) AND if high-risk parts are present (such as whole head with cape and alters or whole carcass):
    1. Notify the local Game Commission region office.
    2. After receiving authorization from the Game Commission, the taxidermist may cape out the head and remove the antlers being careful to remove all visible brain and spinal cord material from the skull cap and cape.
    3. Wear latex or rubber gloves when working on the specimen.
    4. Thoroughly clean hands and taxidermy tools with soap and water; then sanitize tools in a solution of 50 percent household chlorine bleach and 50 percent water for one hour.
    5. CWD-positive meat or waste should not be rendered, burned in burn barrels, deposited in bone piles or spread in areas where it can come in contact with other animals. Contact your Game Commission region office for pick up of potentially contaminated material.
    6. Do not allow animals to have access to your taxidermy area or taxidermy waste.









Pennsylvania Game Commission, 2001 Elmerton Ave, Harrisburg Pennsylvania 17110-9797