Final Round of CWD disease Tests Produces Good News

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Results from the third and final round of testing for chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Missouri show no sign of the disease. State officials say they will continue testing for the wildlife disease when sickly animals turn up.

This year's test results come from deer killed during the 2004 firearms deer season. Federally certified laboratories tested tissue samples from 10,352 deer and 54 counties. All tested negative for the brain-wasting disease.

Asked how he felt about the results, Lonnie Hansen, a resource scientist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, said "Thrilled, just thrilled!

"This is not a guarantee that chronic wasting disease doesn't exist somewhere in Missouri," said Hansen, "but it tells us that the state appears to be CWD free. Now we just need to be vigilant and try to keep it that way."

Hansen said Missouri's vigilance must include hunters as well as operators of facilities that keep captive deer and elk. He urged anyone who observes sickly deer in the wild or in captivity to report them immediately to the nearest Conservation Department office. The Conservation Department gathered tissue samples from approximately 200 deer from each of 30 randomly chosen counties in 2002. The agency repeated the process with samples from 30 more counties in 2003. Last year's sampling completed the statewide testing program. None of more than 22,000 tests showed CWD in Missouri deer.

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 the required amount of time. 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 5 years.

"Constant monitoring of our state's captive elk and deer herds is something that we take seriously," says Dr. Taylor Woods, assistant state veterinarian with the Missouri Department of Agriculture. "Missouri has never had a positive case of chronic wasting disease, and this keeps our state in a good position for marketing our products 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, which includes elk, but not humans.

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's Web site,

Missouri counties included in the final year of testing were Adair, Atchison, Barton, Benton, Butler, Camden, Cape Girardeau, Carter, Cedar, Cole, Cooper, Crawford, Dade, DeKalb, Douglas, Dunklin, Gasconade, Henry, Hickory, Howard, Howell, Iron, Jackson, Laclede, Lafayette, Lawrence, Lincoln, Linn, Livingston, McDonald, Mississippi, Moniteau, Montgomery, Morgan, New Madrid, Ozark, Pemiscot, Perry, Pettis, Phelps, Polk, Pulaski, Putnam, Ralls, Randolph, Reynolds, Schuyler, Shannon, Shelby, St. Charles, Stone, Vernon, Wayne and Wright.