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Department of Agriculture investigating possible 2nd case of chronic wasting disease

| Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Pennsylvania may have its second case of chronic wasting disease.

Officials with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture expect to know by Tuesday or Wednesday whether a second animal from a captive deer farm in New Oxford, Adams County, had the disease.

Officials announced Oct. 11 that a 3 12-year-old doe from the deer farm had tested positive for wasting disease, also known as CWD. It's an always-fatal ailment that affects deer, elk, moose and other cervids.

That case was the first documented in the state and prompted the department to euthanize eight of the nine deer left on the farm. Tissue samples from all were tested for CWD.

Tests revealed seven of those deer were negative for the disease. The eighth, though, came back as “suspect, which means we sent it off to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, for confirmation,” said Matthew Meals, deputy secretary of the department.

If the “suspect” deer is confirmed as having wasting disease, it won't lead to any immediate action, Meals said.

“It will not trigger anything different. From our records, it appears that the deer was born and raised on that facility, so nothing will change much,” he said.

But the situation remains fluid.

For starters, the ninth deer from that farm — bearing yellow ear tags and known as Pink 23 — escaped and remains free. Officials with the agriculture department are working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Pennsylvania Game Commission to capture it, and have put out trail cameras to look for it. But so far it's escaped detection, Meals said.

The number of deer farms around the state under quarantine, because they've been connected to the New Oxford facility, has grown from the initial three to 21. What's going to happen at those farms remains to be seen.

The state's CWD response plan calls for quarantining any exposed “trace back herds” and recommends “euthanasia and treat test exposed cervid(s) received from the positive premise, with indemnity if possible.”

The department of agriculture will not euthanize all of the deer at each of those facilities as “general practice,” said Meals.

“It's most likely that we'll test only the animal or animals that linked them to the positive case in Adams County,” he said.

The department does not plan to pay farmers for deer that might be destroyed, though, added press secretary Samantha Krepps.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bfrye@tribweb.com or 724-838-5148.

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