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PHOENIX – The Arizona Game and Fish Department reports lab tests found no detection of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in any of the 2,343 testable samples from hunter-harvested or road-killed deer and elk during Arizona’s 2008-09 hunting season.
The department has tested approximately 12,500 deer and elk samples since beginning its surveillance program in 1998. None have tested positive for the disease. Although CWD has not yet been found in Arizona, it is present in three neighboring states: Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.
“We nearly doubled our surveillance and collection of samples in areas of concern where neighboring states have detected CWD, which makes announcing another season with no detection in Arizona very encouraging,” said Clint Luedtke, interim wildlife health specialist for the department. “However, we are going to continue to focus heavily in areas that border Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico during the 2009-10 season.”
Another improvement to the surveillance effort this year includes a professional cooperation with the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife. The samples they collected were also included for testing. All of those samples came back negative.
As in past hunting seasons, Game and Fish will be asking for hunters’ assistance this season in submitting deer or elk heads for free CWD testing. Heads can be brought to any Game and Fish Department office between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Luedtke added, “Arizona’s hunters, meat processors and taxidermists continue to play a crucial role in our surveillance program, and we cannot thank them enough in assisting this effort.”
Hunters who are successful in Game Management Units 12B and 27 are especially encouraged to submit heads for sampling because these units border states that have positively detected CWD. Deer and elk from these areas of the state have the greatest potential for initial detection of CWD. Additionally, because the Kaibab check station is only mandatory for Units 12AE and 12AW, it is typically more difficult to obtain samples from Unit 12B.
CWD is a neurodegenerative wildlife disease that is fatal to cervids, which include deer, elk and moose. Clinical symptoms include loss of body weight or emaciation, excessive salivation, increased drinking and urination, stumbling, trembling, and behavioral changes such as listlessness, lowering of the head, and repetitive walking in set patterns.
No evidence has been found to indicate that CWD affects humans, according to both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
CWD was first identified in captive deer in Colorado in 1967 and has since spread to both captive and wild cervids in 15 states and two Canadian provinces. It is a naturally occurring prion disease belonging to a group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). Other TSEs are bovine spongiform encephalopathy (also called “mad cow disease”) in domestic cattle, and scrapie in domestic sheep and goats.
The department has had rules in place since 2002 banning the importation of cervids designated as restricted live wildlife under commission rule R12-4-406(A)(9)(b), to protect against the introduction of CWD to free-ranging or captive wildlife.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department will continue to work in close coordination with other state and federal agencies to monitor for CWD.
For more information on CWD, visit the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Web site at www.azgfd.gov/cwd; the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance Web site at www.cwd-info.org; or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site at www.cdc.gov (use the search feature for chronic wasting disease).