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Case of 'Zombie Deer Disease' shuts down hunting reserve in Warren County

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture reported 722 positive cases of the disease also known as Chronic Wasting Disease.

WARREN COUNTY, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture confirmed a positive case for 'Zombie Deer Disease' also known as Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) on a white-tailed deer on a Warren County hunting preserve, according to a release.

This is the first confirmed positive on the Pennsylvania Northern Tier, state experts said. 

Officials said the remaining deer tested negative for the disease and were euthanized.

Chronic Wasting Disease is a contagious disease that develops slowly in the lymph nodes, spinal tissue and brains of deer and similar animals like reindeer and elk.

The Centers for Disease Control said the disease can remain in the environment for a long time, so other animals can still contract the disease from the environment even after an infected deer or elk has died.

Shannon Powers, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture said euthanization can be highly detrimental to a farming business because of the tough restrictions in place to stop the spread of the disease. 

“ If they have one positive —  one deer die and test positive — they have to choose whether or not to euthanize their herd," Powers said.

As of May, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture reported 722 positive cases of the disease.

There is no evidence that it can be spread to humans, according to state officials.

"Because of the long time it takes before any symptoms of disease appear, scientists expect the study to take many years before they will determine what the risk, if any, of CWD is to people," the CDC said. 

Below are best management practices recommended by Pennsylvania's hunters and processors, according to the state department of agriculture:

  • Do not shoot, handle or eat meat from wild deer or elk that look sick, are acting strangely or are found dead. However, keep in mind that most CWD-infected deer do not look or act sick.
  • Report any sightings of sick or abnormal-acting wild deer or elk to the PA Game Commission.
  • If you are hunting in or near a disease management area, place your deer's head in PA Game Commission collection containers to submit it for CWD testing.
  • If you have your deer or elk commercially processed, consider asking that your animal be processed separately to avoid mixing meat from multiple animals.
  • Wear latex or rubber gloves.
  • Minimize how much you handle the organs, particularly brain or spinal cord tissue.
  • Do not use household knives or other kitchen utensils for field dressing.
  • Double bag high-risk parts and dispose of in an approved landfill.