Tuesday, August 26, 2008

MICHIGAN NEWS: Chronic Wasting Disease Confirmed in Deer

A whitetail deer at a captive facility in Kent County has been confirmed to have chronic wasting disease. The fatal illness in its latter stages has symptoms similar to mad cow disease but affects only cervids like moose, elk and deer, state officials said Monday.

The Michigan Agriculture Department placed an immediate quarantine on all of the 580 captive cervid facilities in Michigan, and Becky Humphries, director of the Department of Natural Resources, said she would announce a total ban on the baiting and feeding of wild deer in the Lower Peninsula as of today.

Even before the single case was confirmed in a 3-year-old doe that was born at the Kent County facility, the state had quarantined five other deer operations in Montcalm and Osceola counties that bought deer from it or sold deer to it.

Humphries said the state's primary concern was to ensure that the disease has not spread from the captive deer to the state's wild deer herd of about 1.5 million whitetails.

DNR veterinarian Steve Schmitt said that under a chronic wasting disease plan the state wrote in 2002, a so-called hot zone was declared in the area within five miles of the infection site, including all or parts of Tyrone, Solon, Nelson, Sparta, Algoma, Courtland, Alpine, Plainfield and Cannon townships.

Testing will be required for all deer killed within that zone.

Schmitt said that even before deer hunting starts with the archery season Oct. 1, the DNR will try to test 300 deer in the hot zone that will be taken under crop damage permits or by roadkills. Another 300 will be tested in surrounding counties.

About a dozen years ago, baiting was banned in some localized areas after bovine tuberculosis was discovered in wild whitetail deer in several counties in the northeastern Lower Peninsula.

But often hunters ignored that ban, and bait continued to be sold even at the heart of the TB zone.

Biologists believed it was a only a matter of time before the wasting disease, first identified about 40 years ago in captive deer in Colorado, reached Michigan after spreading to a dozen other states in the last three years, including Wisconsin and Illinois.

Chronic wasting disease is caused by mutated proteins called prions, which cause nearby proteins to mutate. This usually happens in the brain and spinal column.

Source: Detroit Free Press

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