CWD not Found in White-Tailed Deer Samples

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The Maryland Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Heritage Service announced today that a recent survey of deer harvested in 2003-04 show no sign of chronic wasting disease.

CWD is fatal to deer and elk species. The disease that attacks the brain and spinal cord of the animals and is believed to be caused by prions, which are modified proteins. CWD is classified as a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy similar to “Mad Cow Disease” in cattle and Scrapie in sheep.

A total of 542 white-tailed deer were tested in the survey. Wildlife and Heritage Service biologists collected brain and lymph gland samples during Maryland’s 2003-04 muzzleloader and firearms deer hunting seasons from hunter-harvested deer in Allegany, Baltimore, Carroll, Cecil, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Howard, Montgomery and Washington counties.

Veterinarians of the Maryland Department of Agriculture and veterinarians and biologists of the U.S. Department of Agriculture assisted DNR with the collection of the CWD samples.

The Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS) lab located at the University of Georgia conducted the testing of the brain and lymph samples. The SCWDS, an internationally known wildlife disease research lab, processed the samples for Maryland and most southeastern states.

CWD is fatal to deer and elk species. The disease that attacks the brain and spinal cord of the animals and is believed to be caused by prions, which are modified proteins. CWD is classified as a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy similar to “Mad Cow Disease” in cattle and Scrapie in sheep.

CWD has been confirmed in wild cervids within the following states: Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Utah and Illinois. It has also been found in captive cervids in the following states: Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Additional samples of hunter-harvested deer will be tested from all 23 Maryland counties during the coming 2004-2005 deer seasons. In addition, any sick deer reported to DNR that exhibit CWD type clinical symptoms will be tested.

While no human has been infected by CWD, hunters, and others who handle deer and elk should remain vigilant in their meat-handling techniques. DNR recommends the following common sense tips for handling any harvested deer:

* Avoid shooting or handling a deer that appears sick.

* Wear latex or rubber gloves when field-dressing or butchering deer.

* Remove all internal organs.

* Remove the meat from the bones and spinal column.

* Do not use household knives or utensils.

* Avoid cutting through bones or the spinal column (backbone).

* Never eat a deer’s brain, eyeballs, spinal cord, spleen or lymph nodes.

* If you saw off antlers, cut through a bone, or if you sever the spinal cord with a knife, be sure to disinfect these tools prior to using them for the butchering or removal of meat.

* Remove all fat, membranes and connective tissue from the meat. Note that normal field-dressing and trimming of fat from meat will remove the lymph nodes.

* Always wash hands and instruments thoroughly after dressing and processing game meat.

* Use a 50/50 solution of household chlorine bleach and water to disinfect tools and work surfaces. Wipe down counters and let them dry; soak knives and tools for 1 hour.

Additional CWD information is available on the DNR website at www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/cwdinformation.html or on The Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance web site (www.cwd-info.org)