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4 more farmed white-tailed deer with CWD

ST. PAUL—Four more deer tested positive for chronic wasting disease from a Meeker County herd with ties to a Crow Wing County deer farm in Merrifield.

In late April, the Board of Animal Health and U.S. Department of Agriculture euthanized a quarantined herd of 14 white-tailed deer in Meeker County. Samples collected from the animals were tested at the USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, and four deer were confirmed CWD positive Monday, according to a Minnesota Board of Animal Health news release.

This herd was part of an investigation initiated with a CWD infected, farmed deer herd found in Crow Wing County late last year.

The Board of Animal Health shared the test results with the Minnesota DNR, which responds to and manages CWD in wild deer. The board works with the USDA as it investigates and regulates CWD in farmed deer. The owner agreed to euthanize the animals and test them for CWD as part of a herd plan developed between the USDA, the board and the owner after finding a trace animal in the herd was positive for CWD in January of this year, according to the news release.

The herd plan also includes tracing animal movements into and out of this herd within the last five years. This tracing revealed two of the four CWD positive animals came from a Wright County deer farm as fawns in 2014. The Wright County farm has also been placed under quarantine as of Monday.

"This emphasizes the need for a strong CWD surveillance program in our captive deer and elk. Although these animals appeared healthy, they were infected with CWD and would have continued to spread the disease if they remained alive," said Board Assistant Director Dr. Linda Glaser in a news release. "CWD testing all deer and elk that die or are killed on a producer's property is critical to the program. We quarantined the Wright County herd after discovering two of the four CWD positives originated there, but that herd is not considered infected. Herd movements are restricted, and the herd will be closely monitored until 2019."

The Meeker County farm is empty and remains quarantined for all deer and elk species, and fences remain in place to keep wild deer off the site. The next step is to clean and disinfect as much of the herd enclosures as possible. When that is complete, the property will remain quarantined for a period of five years, the news release stated.

CWD is a disease of deer and elk caused by an abnormally shaped protein, a prion, which can damage brain and nerve tissue. There is no danger to other animal species. The disease is most likely transmitted when infected deer and elk shed prions in saliva, feces, urine, and other fluids or tissues. The disease is always fatal, and there are no known treatments or vaccines. CWD is not known to affect humans, though consuming infected meat is not advised.

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