USDA Provides Funding for CWD Monitoring

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Texas is likely to get a share of $4 million in new federal funding to help detect the presence of chronic wasting disease, a fatal deer and elk brain illness.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service this week announced it is providing $4 million nationwide for CWD surveillance. $1 million of that is available to be split among 14 states, including Texas. Last year, the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies provided about $6,700 to support Texas CWD monitoring.

As of April 1 in Texas, samples from 2,043 wild white-tailed deer and mule deer had been tested, all with negative results. Even though the disease has not been detected in Texas, authorities say sampling is incomplete. They plan to use USDA funding to continue testing this fall when hunting season begins.

The illness has infected deer in 12 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. Last year, it was detected for the first time in southern New Mexico, where seven deer have tested positive.

CWD is in the family of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE). The disease is detected in infected animals' neural tissue such as brains and spinal cords, as well as eyes and lymph nodes. The TSE in domestic sheep is called scrapie, and in cattle it's bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Similar diseases in humans include Creuzfeldt-Jacobs disease (CJD) and its new variant, kuru, and fatal familial insomnia. CWD should not be confused with BSE, scrapie or CJD.

The World Health Organization has said there is no scientific evidence CWD can infect humans. (After more than 16 years of monitoring in the affected area in Colorado, no disease has been detected in people or cattle living there.) However, the organization also says no people or animals should consume any part of potentially CWD-infected deer or elk. Hunters are advised to wear latex gloves when field dressing game, to de-bone all meat and avoid consuming any neural tissue, such as brain or spinal cords of animals.

With approximately 4 million animals, Texas has the nation's largest white-tailed deer population. In addition, about 19,000 white-tailed deer and 17,000 elk are held in private facilities. To determine if CWD is present in captive herds, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas Animal Health Commission are working with breeders to monitor their herds.