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Chronic wasting disease detected at Flathead game farm

by Daily Inter Lake
| November 23, 2020 7:45 AM

The Montana Department of Livestock on Nov. 19 received notification that a single game farm animal in Flathead County was confirmed positive for chronic wasting disease.

This is the second detection of CWD in domestic cervids in Montana this year, the department said in a press release.

The diseased animal was found as a result of mandatory surveillance of all age eligible animal mortalities in game farm animals in Montana. Montana’s CWD Herd Certification Program requires all animals greater than 12 months of age to be tested. The CWD positive animal was not exhibiting any clinical signs of the disease, but was found dead on the game farm premises.

The Department of Livestock did not disclose the name or location of the farm where the infected animal was raised, nor did it identify the precise species of the animal. The cervidae family includes deer, moose and elk.

In a phone call Monday, Dr. Tahnee Szymanski with the Department of Livestock said state law "requires that we keep testing information confidential." Identifying the species of the infected animal, she said, could make it possible for people to figure out which farm it came from.

The infection was confirmed by the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa through the identification of the prion in tissue samples collected from the animal.

The department has placed the herd under quarantine and is conducting an epidemiological investigation. Montana law requires CWD positive game farm herds to undergo complete depopulation and post-mortem testing of the herd, or quarantine of the entire herd for a period of five years from the last CWD positive case.

“An epidemiologic investigation will be conducted, but

at this time, the source of the disease is unknown,” State Veterinarian Dr. Marty Zaluski stated. "We will look at historical animal movements associated with this captive herd and proximity to infected wildlife to try to determine the source of exposure.”

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks has documented CWD in wild cervids across much of Montana through surveillance that began in 2017. In 2019, approximately 7,000 wild deer, elk, and moose were sampled statewide, with 140 of them testing positive for CWD.

Chronic Wasting Disease is a progressive, fatal disease that affects the nervous system of white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and moose. Transmission can occur through direct contact between animals, through urine, feces, saliva, blood and antler velvet. Infected carcasses may serve as a source of environmental contamination and can infect other animals.

Infected animals may carry the disease for years without showing signs of illness, but in later stages, signs may include progressive weight loss, lack of coordination and physical debilitation.

There is no known transmission of CWD to humans. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that hunters harvesting an animal in areas known for the presence of CWD, have their animal tested. If the animal tests positive, the CDC advises against eating the meat.