Chronic Wasting

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Nebraska Game and Parks Commission biologists killed 26 deer east of Alliance last week as part of a continuing effort to monitor chronic wasting disease in western Nebraska.

Alliance district wildlife manager Gary Schlichtemeier says the recent culling operation follows the finding of 18 CWD positive-testing deer from 2,500 samples collected in the Panhandle during the 2003-2004 deer seasons.

Four positive deer were found east of Alliance. Another positive was collected in late January south of Hay Springs by a conservation officer.

Schlichtemeier says the area sampled east of Alliance has a high concentration of deer. He says research indicates a high deer density increases the risk of spreading the disease.

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Chronic Wasting Disease

  • To date, chronic wasting disease has been found only in members of the deer family in North America. Animals include: Rocky Mountain Elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, and black-tailed deer.

  • There is ongoing research to explore the possibility of transmission of chronic wasting disease to other species.

Clinical Signs

  • Most cases of chronic wasting disease occur in adult animals.

  • The disease is progressive and always fatal.

  • The most obvious and consistent clinical sign of chronic wasting disease is weight loss over time.

  • Behavioral changes also occur in the majority of cases, including decreased interactions with other animals.

What Causes chronic wasting disease?

  • The agent responsible for chronic wasting disease has not been completely characterized.

  • There are three main theories on the nature of the agent that causes chronic wasting disease:
    • The agent is a prion, an abnormal form of a normal protein, known as cellular prion protein, most commonly found in the central nervous system.

    • The agent is an unconventional virus.

    • The agent is a virino, or "incomplete" virus composed of nucleic acid protected by host proteins. The chronic wasting disease agent is smaller than most viral particles and does not evoke any detectable immune response or inflammatory reaction in the host animal.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture contributed to this report.


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