An ongoing chronic wasting disease (CWD) investigation in Minnesota has led to the discovery of a CWD-confirmed doe on a Pine County farm.

As reported by the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, the herd in Pine County was being investigated because it provided animals to a Douglas County herd in the past, including a CWD positive doe that initiated the disease investigation.

In December, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health confirmed that an 8-year-old white-tailed doe tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD) after its white-tailed buck pen-mate killed it in a small, two-deer, hobbyist herd in Douglas County. The USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory confirmed the doe’s brain and lymph node tissues were positive for the disease. The site was put under quarantine.

The connection between the two farms made it possible to track down the CWD-infected doe in Pine County.

Michael Crusan, communications director at the Minnesota Board of Animal Health said that the outbreak took place on a farm in eastern Pine County, and that due to state privacy rules they could not give any more specific information about the location of the farm.

“We identified the Pine County herd as high priority early in our investigation because our records showed it provided deer to the Douglas County herd,” said Board Assistant Director, Dr. Linda Glaser. “At this point in the investigation CWD has not been detected in any of the other herds connected to Douglas County.”

The Douglas County herd is completely depopulated, and the site is not allowed to have any deer or elk for five years. The owner must also maintain fencing to prevent wild deer from accessing the empty pen and post biohazard signs on the fencing for the entire five-year period.

According to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, the Pine County herd owner must also depopulate and test all remaining deer on the farm and maintain fencing with biohazard signage for five years. The investigation is continuing beyond this herd to discover additional movements of deer between it and other locations in the past. Any additional farms identified will be quarantined and their movement records will be reviewed.

Crusan said an epidemiologist had been called in to track the origin and path of the disease in the Pine County herd. He said that area residents should not be alarmed, but urged those spotting roadkill deer to contact the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

CWD is a disease of the deer and elk family caused by prions, which can damage brain and nerve tissue. The disease is most likely transmitted when infected deer and elk shed prions in saliva, feces, urine, and other fluids or tissues. CWD is not known to naturally occur in other animals. The disease is fatal in deer and elk, and there are no known treatments or vaccines. Consuming infected meat is not advised.

Rarick speaks out on CWD

State Senator Jason Rarick (R-Brook Park) said that his office would explore every option to prevent a CWD crisis.

“We are taking the threat posed by Chronic Wasting Disease extremely seriously,” Rarick said. “I am hopeful that this will be an isolated incident in Pine County and that it hasn’t spread any further.”

Rarick stated that in 2019, the Minnesota legislature dedicated $1.8 million to the University of Minnesota for surveillance, research, and preventive measures to protect Minnesota’s deer populations, including a live test to detect Chronic Wasting Disease. The legislature also implemented new rules on farms, such as stricter fencing regulations and a requirement of double gates.

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