Study on CWD in Pa. helps researchers better understand the disease

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Deer test positive for Chronic Wasting Disease

Samples collected from deer in Pennsylvania who have tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease are helping researchers across the nation better understand the deadly disease, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday.

Seven deer tested who positive for the disease were from a Jefferson County farm, according to a news release. Two deer died in April on the farm and both tested positive for the disease. So far, a total of 14 white-tailed deer in Pennsylvania have tested positive for CWD since 2012.

“Chronic Wasting Disease is making its way across the state and we’re doing everything we can to stop its spread,” said Agriculture Secretary George Greig. “By working with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, state and national deer farmers associations and researchers from across the nation, we can better combat the disease.”

The department set out to provide as much information as possible to aid researchers to develop better diagnostic methods. It granted permission for researchers from Kansas State University, in cooperation with state and national deer farming associations, to take samples from the live deer. The samples are being used to study potential live-animal diagnostic tests to detect the disease.

Postmortem samples were distributed to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Veterinary and Wildlife Services and USDA Agricultural Research Services for additional research about the disease.

“This is an unprecedented level of infection in a captive deer herd,” said Greig. “The department and deer farmers worked together to accommodate the requests of these researchers. The more we know, the greater the chance we can eradicate the disease.”

An investigation continues into any other deer farms that may have purchased or supplied the Reynoldsville herd with deer.

What is CWD?

Chronic Wasting Disease attacks the brains of infected antlered animals such as deer, elk and moose, producing small lesions that eventually result in death. Animals can get the disease through direct contact with saliva, feces and urine from an infected animal.

There is no evidence that humans or livestock can get the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CWD symptoms:

Symptoms include weight loss, excessive salivation, increased drinking and urination, and abnormal behavior like stumbling, trembling and depression. Infected deer and elk may also allow unusually close approach by humans or natural predators. The disease is fatal and there is no known treatment or vaccine.

Additional CWD cases:

Two Adams County deer tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease in 2012. During the investigation the department quarantined 27 farms in 16 counties associated with the positive samples. Since then, five farms remain quarantined.

Surveillance for the disease has been ongoing in Pennsylvania since 1998.

The Department of Agriculture coordinates a mandatory surveillance program for more than 23,000 captive deer on 1,100 breeding farms, hobby farms and shooting preserves.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission collects samples from hunter-harvested deer and elk and those that appear sick or behave abnormally. Since 1998, the commission has tested more than 38,000 free-ranging deer and elk for the disease.  Five wild deer have tested positive for the disease since 2013.

For more information, visit and click on the “Chronic Wasting Disease Information” tab.