First Chronic Wasting Disease Case

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Chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been detected in a sample from a wild deer near Roscoe in Winnebago County, the Department of Natural Resources announced today. CWD is not known to be contagious to livestock or humans.

The young female deer was shot by a landowner in late October because he believed it was ill. DNR Conservation Police officers were contacted and collected the doe for testing at the Illinois Department of Agriculture laboratory in Centralia. A follow-up test conducted today at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, confirmed the diagnosis.

"This is the first positive for CWD from any deer or elk in Illinois, though we've been monitoring and testing for the disease for the past five years," said IDNR Director Brent Manning. "Illinois expanded its surveillance efforts earlier this year and created a joint task force with the Departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture following the CWD outbreak in southern Wisconsin."

"The detection of CWD in Winnebago County is disappointing," Manning said. "We are committed to a long-term plan of stepped up surveillance and monitoring and to taking all steps biologically appropriate to control the spread of chronic wasting disease in Illinois. Deer hunters and those who value the health of wildlife and outdoor recreation in Illinois will continue to play an important role in that process."

Extensive testing for the disease is planned during Illinois' firearm deer season, which begins Friday, Nov. 22. About 3,500 samples in 36 counties from hunter- harvested deer around Illinois will be collected and tested. Larger numbers of samples from hunter-harvested deer are being collected in northern Illinois. Additional samples also are being taken from deer control programs in northeastern Illinois where firearm deer hunting is not allowed.

Counties tentatively to be sampled for CWD during the 2002 firearm deer hunting season include Jo Daviess, Stephenson, Winnebago, Boone, McHenry, Carroll, Ogle, DeKalb, Whiteside, Rock Island, Bureau, LaSalle, Hancock, Adams, Pike, Fulton, McLean, Vermilion, Sangamon, Macoupin, Shelby, Fayette, Effingham, Clark, Lawrence, Madison, St. Clair, Clinton, Washington, Randolph, Jefferson, Marion,Williamson, Union, Johnson and Pope. Counties were selected based on a variety of factors including geographic location, size of deer population and the number of facilities with captive deer or elk.

"Once we get test results back from our expanded surveillance efforts the task force will be able to evaluate the extent of the disease in Illinois and the necessary steps to control the disease," Manning said.

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological disease found in deer and elk. The disease affects the brains of infected animals, causing them to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior, lose coordination and eventually die. It is not known to be contagious to livestock or humans.

CWD has been diagnosed in wild, free-ranging deer and elk as well as in captive animals in a number of western states but earlier this year was found in neighboring Wisconsin and Minnesota. Illinois has been testing suspect animals for the last five years, as well as taking samples during deer hunting season.

A task force, comprised of key staff from both agencies, has been working for months to develop plans to address surveillance of wild deer and captive herds, import and export of deer and elk and a planned response to a potential chronic wasting disease outbreak in Illinois.

The importation of hunter-harvested deer and elk is being limited, the importation of live animals has been restricted and the feeding of wild deer has been banned.

A DNR rule bans the importation of hunter-harvested deer and elk carcases into Illinois, except for deboned meat, antlers, antlers attached to skull caps, hides, upper canine teeth, and finished taxidermist mounts. Skull caps must be cleaned of all brain and muscle tissue. This action prevents hunters from bringing potentially diseased animals into Illinois and discarding their parts in a manner that could result in contamination of Illinois' deer herd.

The Department has banned the feeding of wild deer and other wildlife in areas where wild deer are present. The ban includes food, salt, mineral blocks and other food products, with some exceptions. For example, bird and squirrel feeders close to homes and incidental feeding of wildlife within active livestock operations, are exempt from the ban. For a complete list of the exemptions see the rule on the Department's web site.

The Department has also implemented regulations to minimize the threat of chronic wasting disease entering Illinois through the interstate transportation of captive deer and elk and to monitor captive herds already in Illinois. DNR shares responsibility with the Department of Agriculture in regulating captive deer and elk on game farms. DNR's new rule complements new regulations being adopted by the Agriculture Department for diseased animals.