For the second year in a row, laboratory tests found no Missouri deer with chronic wasting disease (CWD).
The Missouri Department of Conservation says it plans to continue testing deer taken in this year's hunting season and in the future.
"Naturally, we are extremely happy to learn that our second year of chronic wasting disease surveillance didn't find any infected deer," said Eric Kurzejeski, resource science supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation. "All the same, it's important that we continue monitoring the health of Missouri's deer herd. We want to be sure to find CWD if it exists in parts of the state where we haven't tested yet, and we have to be ready to respond quickly and appropriately if it is found. We need hunters' continuing help to accomplish that."
The Conservation Department took tissue samples from deer killed by hunters during the November portion of the 2003 firearms deer season and samples from apparently sick deer that were reported to the Conservation Department. In all, 6,049 samples were sent to a federally-certified laboratory to be tested for CWD. None tested positive for CWD.
The testing was the second round in a three-year effort by the Conservation Department to check every county in the state for CWD. The goal for each of the first two years was to test approximately 200 deer each from 30 counties. Next year, the agency plans to test approximately 200 deer from each of the remaining 54 counties for which no tests have been performed to date.
In addition to the structured, statewide monitoring program, state officials will continue targeted testing of obviously sick deer reported to the Conservation or Agriculture department. Kurzejeski noted that Missouri hunters kill nearly 300,000 white-tailed deer annually and are in an excellent position to report deer that look sick.
Counties included in 2003 testing were Audrain, Barry, Boone, Buchanan, Cass, Dallas, Davis, Dent, Gentry, Grundy, Harrison, Knox, Lewis, Macon, Maries, Marion, Mercer, Miller, Newton, Nodaway, Oregon, Osage, Ray, Saline, Scott, Ste. Genevieve, Stoddard, Washington, Webster and Worth. Those tested in 2002 were Andrew, Bates, Bollinger, Caldwell, Callaway, Carroll, Chariton, Christian, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Franklin, Greene, Holt, Jasper, Jefferson, Johnson, Madison, Monroe, Pike, Platte, Ripley, Ste. Clair, St. Francis, St. Louis, Scotland, Sullivan, Taney, Texas and Warren.
"We appreciate the help of hunters who allowed Conservation Department workers to take tissue samples for testing," said Kurzejeski. "Their cooperation will continue to be critical to the state's CWD monitoring program."
The Agriculture Department regulates the importation of captive deer and elk to safeguard Missouri from several veterinary diseases, including CWD.
Producers from outside Missouri must obtain entry permits for elk, elk hybrids, mule deer and white-tailed deer by proving they have been in a state-recognized CWD monitoring program for at least three years. Missouri prohibits the importation of captive deer and elk that come from any portion of a state designated as a CWD endemic area or that have been held in a CWD endemic area within the past five years.
"We constantly monitor the state's captive elk and deer herds, and we've never had a positive case of CWD," said Dr. Taylor Woods, state veterinarian with the Missouri Department of Agriculture. "Not having found a positive case among wild herds gives us a big indication that our captive herds are free of the disease and gives us a leg up in marketing our products across the state and throughout the nation."
CWD belongs to a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, or TSEs. It shares certain characteristics with other TSEs, such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle, scrapie in sheep and Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease in humans. However, CWD is a different disease known to affect only members of the deer family.
The World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes for Health have studied CWD and found no link between it and similar human diseases.
Likewise, veterinary health officials say that all evidence to date indicates that CWD is not a threat to domesticated animals. Woods said current research shows no evidence that chronic wasting disease can spread to other livestock, such as cattle.
For more information about CWD, visit the Conservation Department' Web site, http://www.mdc.mo.gov/hunt/cwd/.