CWD More Infectious Than Originally Thought

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A recent article in Nature magazine says researchers are discovering that chronic wasting disease (CWD) is more infectious than was previously thought.

“The finding suggests that tough long-term measures are needed to contain the disease, perhaps involving the deaths of thousands of North American deer,” writes author Helen R. Pilcher in the Sept. 4 article.

Although CWD has not been found in Arizona, state wildlife officials are concerned about the possibility of it coming here. CWD is found in three states bordering Arizona: Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

Scientists have not pinpointed how CWD is transmitted but they believe it might spread via urine, saliva or via routes such as shared scratching posts or contaminated grazing land. There is no evidence that humans or animals other than deer and elk can get CWD.

The article quotes wildlife disease experts as saying that decades of culling and containment may be needed in the areas contaminated with CWD.

Since its first appearance in Colorado more than 35 years ago, the disease has spread across 12 states. According to the article, in 2002, the disease appeared unexpectedly in Wisconsin, hundreds of miles to the east.

Arizona wildlife officials have been taking precautionary measures – such as banning imports on cervids (deer and elk). In 2002, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission implemented an importation ban on live deer and elk to lessen the chance of CWD coming into the state. The commission also placed restrictions on the transport of live cervids within the state.

Arizona wildlife officials are asking everyone’s assistance in detecting Arizona animals that may become infected with this neurological disease. If you see deer or elk in poor condition, losing hair, stumbling or with drooping ears, or encounter deer that have a slow reaction to your presence, please contact the Arizona Game and Fish Department at (800) 352-0700.

Arizonans who hunt out of state may want to have their deer or elk tested for CWD if such a service is available in the state where the animal is harvested. There may be a fee for such CWD examination. Contact that state’s wildlife officials for information on their policies and needs.