Outdoors Notebook: Wasting disease enters state, captive deer infected

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When Chronic Wasting Disease was confirmed Thursday in a captive deer on a commercial deer farm in Adams County, state and federal agencies were ready.

A response plan and interagency task force, in place and routinely updated since 2005, was quickly activated. Shortly after the disease was confirmed, three deer farms in Adams, Lycoming and York counties were quarantined, and meetings were under way to determine a further course of action.

But with the diseases spreading among wild deer populations in New York, West Virginia and Maryland, the question for Pennsylvania hunters is probably not "if" it will impact the state's wild deer but "when."

The disease is a neurological disease always fatal in deer, elk and moose.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization report it can not be transmitted to humans. Nevertheless, the disease was confirmed in the Keystone State during an ongoing outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease, an unrelated virus with similar symptoms, and reasonable precautions should be taken by hunters.

• "At this juncture, there is no need for anyone to panic or be overly concerned," said state Rep. Deberah Kula, D-Fayette/Westmoreland. "However, everyone should heed the experts' advice, which is to not eat any part of an animal exhibiting signs of CWD. These include weight loss and excessive salivation, and abnormal behaviors such as stumbling or trembling."

• "Though no human disease has been associated with CWD, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people or other animals do not eat any part of an animal diagnosed with or showing signs of CWD," said Michael Wolf, acting secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

• "To date CWD has not been found in Pennsylvania's wild deer population," said Game Commission executive director Carl Roe. "Concerns over CWD should not prevent anyone from enjoying deer hunting and consuming meat from healthy animals."

Roe recommended hunters shoot only animals that appear healthy. They should wear surgical-style gloves when field-dressing deer and wash thoroughly when finished. Also, de-bone wild meat and don't consume the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils, fatty tissues or lymph nodes of harvested animals.

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