ST. PAUL-Just weeks after chronic wasting disease was found in three wild deer in southeast Minnesota, the fatal brain disease has been identified in a farmed deer herd in Crow Wing County near Merrifield, Minn., the Minnesota Department of Animal Health reported Friday.
The herd of 33 mule deer and 100 white-tailed deer is registered with the Board of Animal Health. Two, 2-year-old female deer were slaughtered on the farm, and both tested positive for CWD, the board said. The deer showed no clinical signs of illness.
The Board of Animal Health requires CWD testing of all farmed deer or elk that die or are slaughtered and are more than 12 months old. Routine tissue samples were collected at slaughter from the CWD-infected deer. Those samples were tested at the University of Minnesota's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and then forwarded to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, for official confirmation. Those tests confirmed CWD.
"The affected herd has been quarantined," Dr. Paul Anderson, assistant director at the Board of Animal Health, said in a news release. "At this point, our priority is making sure no deer leave or enter the farm while we work with the owner to determine the best course of action for the herd. We're also working closely with the Department of Natural Resources and the United States Department of Agriculture as we develop plans."
Lou Cornicelli, wildlife research manager for the DNR, said the agency hopes the full extent of the infection soon is evaluated to determine the overall prevalence of the disease in the remaining animals.
"A full accounting of on-farm and movements of farmed animals will help inform DNR's overall response to the discovery," Cornicelli said.
People who hunt near the infected farm should prepare for CWD surveillance during the 2017 deer hunting season. The DNR's CWD response plan, which establishes general procedures for wild deer surveillance if CWD is detected in a farmed deer facility, is available online atmndnr.gov/cwdplan.
A disease of deer and elk, CWD most likely is transmitted when infected animals shed abnormally shaped proteins called prions in saliva, feces, urine, and other fluids or tissues. Prions can damage nerve and brain tissue. There are no known treatments or vaccines, and the disease is always fatal. There is no danger to other animal species, and CWD is not known to affect humans, but consuming infected meat is not advised.
Information about Minnesota's farmed deer and elk herds can be found on the Board of Animal Health website: www.bah.state.mn.us/deer-elk/.