Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Awareness

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) poses a significant threat to deer, elk, reindeer, and moose populations. This neurodegenerative disease is fatal, causing brain lesions with no available vaccine or treatment. While CWD has not been confirmed in Indiana, it has been identified in neighboring states.

Disease Transmission

Persistence in the Environment: The key factor in the transmission of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) lies in the longevity and resilience of prions, misfolded proteins causing the disease. Shed through bodily secretions like saliva, feces, and urine, these prions exhibit remarkable persistence in the environment. Their resistance to disinfectants, freezing, and heat allows them to endure and pose an ongoing threat.

Environmental Contamination: The shedding of prions by infected animals contributes to environmental contamination. Areas frequented by CWD-positive animals become potential reservoirs, intensifying the risk of transmission. Environmental persistence complicates efforts to control the spread of CWD, requiring vigilant management strategies to reduce contamination risks.

Asymptomatic Spread: One significant challenge in controlling CWD is the period during which infected animals appear healthy. The latency period of 18-24 months before visible symptoms manifest allows for the silent, asymptomatic spread of the disease. During this phase, infected animals shed prions, contributing to environmental contamination without clear signs of illness.

Risk to Wildlife Populations: The insidious nature of CWD transmission poses a considerable risk to wildlife populations. The ongoing contamination of habitats and the potential for undetected spread among seemingly healthy animals create challenges for maintaining healthy populations. Understanding and mitigating these risks are crucial for effective wildlife management.

Human Health Concerns: While there is currently no evidence of CWD transmission to humans, the persistent nature of prions raises concerns. Hunter precautions, such as testing deer and elk before consumption, reflect a proactive approach to minimizing potential human health risks. The precautionary measures advised by health authorities emphasize the need for ongoing awareness and surveillance.

Environmental Stewardship: Given the environmental implications of CWD transmission, responsible disposal of carcass parts becomes a critical component of stewardship. Proper disposal methods, including double-bagging for regular trash pickup, using municipal landfills, or burying at the kill site, aim to minimize environmental contamination and contribute to responsible wildlife management.

Human Health and Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

Absence of Human Cases: As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been no reported cases of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) infection in humans. This observation, while reassuring, prompts a cautious approach, considering the potential risks associated with the disease.

Precautionary Measures: In regions where CWD is known to be present, the CDC advocates for proactive measures to safeguard human health. These measures include testing deer and elk before consumption, providing an additional layer of assurance for individuals relying on wild game as a food source.

Testing Protocols: The recommendation to test deer and elk before consumption aligns with an abundance of caution. The testing protocols serve as a preemptive strategy to identify any potential presence of CWD in game animals. This proactive approach empowers hunters and consumers with information to make informed decisions regarding the safety of the meat they harvest.

Avoidance of Positive Cases: A key facet of the CDC's guidance involves avoiding the consumption of meat from animals testing positive for CWD. This directive underscores the significance of heeding test results and exercising prudence in the selection of game meat for consumption. By avoiding meat from positive cases, individuals can minimize potential exposure to CWD prions.

Continuous Monitoring and Awareness: The absence of reported human cases emphasizes the importance of continuous monitoring and public awareness. Vigilance in testing, adherence to safety recommendations, and staying informed about the prevalence of CWD in specific regions collectively contribute to a comprehensive approach in managing potential risks to human health.

Research and Surveillance: Ongoing research and surveillance efforts remain crucial in enhancing our understanding of the interactions between CWD, wildlife populations, and potential human exposure. As scientific knowledge evolves, it informs public health strategies and ensures that recommendations remain grounded in the latest evidence.

Prevention Measures

To minimize the risk of exposure to CWD:

  • Testing: Consider having deer tested before consuming the meat.
  • Avoidance: Refrain from consuming meat from CWD-positive animals.
  • Precautions: Follow guidelines to decrease exposure risk available at cdc.gov/prions/cwd.

Indiana Board of Animal Health (BOAH) Guidelines

BOAH strictly regulates the movement of cervid carcasses into Indiana, allowing specific items like de-boned or processed meat, cleaned antlers, hides, teeth, and taxidermist mounts. The DNR conducts surveillance efforts, offering hunters options for CWD testing.

How You Can Help

  • Reporting: Report sick deer at on.IN.gov/sickwildlife.
  • Responsible Disposal: Dispose of carcass parts responsibly, following guidelines.
  • Compliance: Adhere to carcass transport restrictions, varying across states.
  • Participation: Engage in DNR's sampling and surveillance efforts.

For more details on CWD, surveillance, and testing, visit on.IN.gov/cwd.

Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) Monitoring in Indiana's Deer Herd

Background

The vigilant collaboration between the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH) arises from the identification of Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) in southeast Indiana. Instances of bTB detection occurred in captive cervids, cattle farms in Franklin and Dearborn counties, and wild white-tailed deer and raccoons within the vicinity of infected cattle farms.

Surveillance Efforts

Since the initiation of surveillance efforts in 2009, hunters and landowners have played a crucial role in facilitating the testing of over 5,000 deer within the surveillance zone. Despite extensive testing, no instances of bTB have been identified in wild deer, suggesting a potentially low prevalence or absence in the wild deer population.

Identification of Lesions

During the field-dressing process, individuals are advised to remain vigilant for specific visual cues indicating bTB. White or tan lesions may be present on internal organs such as the lungs, inside the rib cage, liver, lymph nodes, or occasionally other internal organs. Recognition and reporting of deer displaying such lesions are essential for continued monitoring and timely response.

Precautionary Measures

To mitigate potential exposure, individuals handling carcasses or raw meat are strongly encouraged to wear disposable gloves. Following the handling process, thorough handwashing with soap and water is vital. Additionally, tools used in processing should undergo meticulous washing and disinfection to minimize any risk of transmission.

Reporting and Testing

Prompt Response

Prompt reporting of deer displaying lesions is crucial for maintaining the effectiveness of monitoring efforts. Individuals encountering deer with potential bTB-related symptoms should report their observations promptly at on.IN.gov/sickwildlife.

Information Resources

For comprehensive information on bTB, including locations for carcass testing and detailed reporting procedures, individuals can refer to the dedicated resource at deerhealth.IN.gov.

Community Engagement

The ongoing success of bTB monitoring relies on the continued support and engagement of hunters and landowners. Their proactive involvement not only contributes to data collection but also plays a pivotal role in maintaining the health of Indiana's deer herd.

Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in Indiana Deer

Overview

EHD Origins and Transmission Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) stems from infections caused by viruses within the Orbivirus genus, transmitted through biting midges. It's important to note that EHD is not transmissible to humans. When deer are infected, they often exhibit signs of fever, seek proximity to water, and may be discovered dead in or around water sources. Additional indicators include a blue-tinged tongue, ulcers on the tongue, or erosion of the dental pad. The occurrence of freezing temperatures typically marks the conclusion of EHD outbreaks.

Disease Impact

Varied Outcomes Contrary to a common misconception, not all deer contracting EHD succumb to the disease. Although there is no specific treatment for EHD, many infected deer recover and develop immunity. While localized deer mortality due to EHD can be significant, widespread or prolonged population declines haven't been consistently observed.

Influencing Factors

Disease Dynamics The dynamics of EHD are influenced by several factors, including the abundance of insect vectors, virus serotype, prior host immunity, genetic variations among deer, and deer population density. Outbreaks tend to follow a cyclical pattern, occurring approximately every five years. The last substantial outbreak in Indiana was documented in 2019, particularly affecting the southern regions.

Monitoring and Reporting

Tracking EHD Cases To monitor the prevalence of EHD, Indiana maintains records of reported, tested, and lab-confirmed cases by county since 2019. For detailed information on EHD cases in your area, visit on.IN.gov/EHD.

Community Engagement

Early Detection and Reporting The timely detection of EHD cases is crucial for effective management. If you suspect instances of EHD in deer, your active involvement is encouraged. Submit reports promptly at on.IN.gov/sickwildlife to contribute to the collective efforts in safeguarding Indiana's deer population.

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