Program on deer farms helps combat chronic wasting disease

Times Leader
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The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) announced that Disease Management Area 1(DMA 1), which was established in 2012 after Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was found in a private deer herd on a farm in Adams County, will be dissolved. After five years of intense surveillance, and testing of approximately 4,800 deer, there is no evidence of disease spillover.

CWD is a disease which poses a serious threat to the health of the animals and the livelihood of their farmers in Pennsylvania and across North America. Privately owned deer herds within the Commonwealth are regulated by the Department of Agriculture (DOA) which requires that all herds must be in one of two CWD Monitoring programs, Herd Certification Program (HCP) or Herd Monitoring Program (HMP). Both require intensive surveillance for the disease, with the HCP being the most intensive.

The private herd in Adams County, which discovered CWD in 2012, was part of the HCP program which requires the highest level of mortality testing of any program in the nation. The intent is to create a highly surveilled, low disease-risk herd allowing for commerce amongst private individuals.

The program allowed for quick detection of CWD. There was also quick response to eliminate and mitigate the disease risk before it could spread further. The herd in Adams County used the method of depopulation to stamp out the disease, and prevent any spreading or spillover of the disease. In the Adams County situation, the HCP program was a success.

“While this success deserves credit, it also highlights the need for more research to increase our tools to overcome CWD,” said Jarrid Barry, vice president of the Pennsylvania Deer Farmers Association. “The reality is depopulation, although understandable in this specific situation, came at the price of destroying a private herd, causing a family in our state to no longer be able to enjoy a way of life that they once had.”

The science behind CWD leaves a lot of room for improvement. All parties involved must continue to look into methods to properly manage Pennsylvania’s current CWD situation and find ways to facilitate future research to better control CWD. The private deer industry remains deeply committed to working with all stakeholders and state agencies to find reasonable solutions to CWD.

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Times Leader

Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky

Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky