Chronic wasting disease increase not a mystery

At a recent Clearfield County community meeting, the U. S. Department of Agriculture was seeking farmers’ and land owners’ permission for the purpose of conducting another deer culling operation in the chronic wasting disease zone in Clearfield County.

However, according to researchers from Wisconsin, the state with the highest documented cases of CWD and getting worse, their attempt to eradicate deer in CWD zone was a spectacular failure.

This is much like results found in last year’s culling of 126 deer in Clearfield County — all tested negative for CWD.

CWD issue falls under the purview of the USDA, the agency entrusted with commerce in agriculture. The sale and transportation of potentially infected deer from documented CWD infected farms are not prohibited, such as the case of the recent discovery of another CWD infected deer in Clearfield County.

The deer was purchased from a documented infected CWD commercial deer farm in Fulton County then transported to Clearfield County.

Researchers believe the best way to curb this disease is to stop transporting the causative agents, including live deer and elk because there is no practical test to confirm the disease.

CWD can be dormant in an infected deer for years before symptoms appear.

USDA has programs that promote development of monitoring wildlife disease and, emergency response system capabilities of addressing wildlife disease. Since discovery, over 50 years have passed, and CWD is increasing in prevalence where established. Why? Obviously more interest lies in commerce.

The root of the CWD problem is the USDA continues to allow the sale and transportation of hoofed ruminant animals (deer, elk and sheep) from documented CWD infected farms, a practice that must be stopped.

Unfortunately, it is evident that economic interest is greater than wildlife environmental health and safety.

The origin of CWD remains a mystery; opinions vary on how best to deal with it. Has CWD existed in nature without detection over the years, or is it the result of human error?

It was first discovered in 1967 in mule deer at a research facility in Northern Colorado. The disease is now found in 26 states and three provinces in Canada.

In view of USDA’s apparent oversight, the continued geographical spread of the dreaded and fatal chronic wasting disease no longer remains a mystery to this writer.

Joseph E. Colton

Smithmill

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