Chronic Wasting Disease spreads to Culpeper County

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been discovered in a male white-tailed deer legally harvested in Culpeper County in November 2018, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) confirmed Friday afternoon.

A cooperating taxidermist submitted the sample to DGIF in late January. At the time the deer was harvested, the hunter did not notice any outward signs of disease and the buck appeared to be in good condition.

While CWD has been documented in northwest Virginia for over nine years, this deer was harvested more than 40 miles from the nearest CWD-positive deer in Frederick and Shenandoah counties. Because of the distance from other known positives, DGIF conducted an extensive forensic investigation to confirm the harvest location of the deer, resulting in a delay in releasing the information to the public.

This spring and summer, the DGIF will be working with cooperating partners and members of the CWD Response Team to determine the most appropriate measures moving forward. These measures may include regulation changes, enhanced CWD surveillance, and other methods designed to assess and manage the spread of the disease in Culpeper and surrounding counties.

Additional CWD surveillance efforts will be launched this fall of 2019 utilizing predominantly hunter harvested deer.

Also, in order to address questions and concerns from the community about the Department’s planned management approach to CWD in the area, a public meeting will be scheduled for late summer in Culpeper County.

This past hunting season, the DGIF worked with fifty taxidermists statewide to enhance Virginia’s CWD surveillance. Of the more than 1,600 samples submitted by participating taxidermists, CWD was only detected in the single Culpeper deer.

The DGIF also tested over 1,550 deer harvested from Frederick, Clarke, Warren and Shenandoah counties and detected CWD in two deer from Shenandoah County and 26 deer from Frederick County. An additional doe from Shenandoah County, reported to the department by a member of the public and showing symptoms of the disease, was diagnosed with CWD in April.

In Virginia, a total of 68 deer have tested positive since 2009. This incurable disease, found in deer, elk, and moose in North America, is a slow and progressive neurologic disease that ultimately results in death of the animal. The disease-causing agent is spread through the urine, feces, and saliva of infected animals.

Noticeable symptoms, though may not appear in animals for over a year, include staggering, abnormal posture, lowered head, drooling, confusion, and marked weight loss. There is no evidence that CWD can be transmitted naturally to humans, livestock, or pets, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise hunters to test all deer harvested from known CWD-positive areas and to not consume any animals that test positive for the disease.

That said, as reported by the Rappahannock News this winter, the CDC announced last October that “experimental studies raise the concern that CWD may pose a risk to people and suggest that it is important to prevent human exposures to CWD.”

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