- WINNIPEG - Canadian food
and wildlife officials were awaiting further test results yesterday after
discovering an elk on an Alberta ranch with the western Canadian province's
first case of chronic wasting disease, or CWD, a disorder similar to mad
- On March 26, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency
that an elk on a game farm in northwestern Alberta had tested positive
for the fatal neurological illness, sometimes referred to as mad deer,
or mad elk, disease. The agency has quarantined the 70-member herd in which
they found the infected animal. Its policy is to humanely destroy herds
in which there has been a positive CWD test and the agency is trying to
trace all animals either sold into or out of that Alberta elk herd within
the last three years.
- "I'm quite frankly anxiously awaiting the test
on all of these animals that are going to be taken out," Gerald Ollis,
Alberta's chief veterinarian, told Reuters yesterday.
- "I'm not particularly concerned about the fact that
we have CWD at this stage of the game unless we find that we have a large
number of positive animals on that farm," he added.
- CWD was discovered in the neighboring Prairie province
of Saskatchewan in 1996, devastating its game ranching industry, which
sells deer and elk meat domestically and exports antler velvet, primarily
to Asian markets.
- To date, 227 animals have tested positive in 39 herds
in Saskatchewan and about 7,800 animals have been euthanized.Saskatchewan
also reported the first Canadian case of CWD in a wild mule deer last year.
One other wild deer in the province later tested positive for CWD.Alberta
established a voluntary surveillance program among elk and deer farmers
in the autumn of 1996, with about 75 percent of producers on about 500
farms submitting the heads of all animals that were either slaughtered
or died naturally.
- Since Alberta's detection program began, more than 4,000
animals have been tested. This was the first positive test in the
detection of CWD in Alberta, although it's disappointing, what it does
tell us is that the surveillance is working," said Ollis. But he noted
that because not all producers participate in the surveillance program,
there could be undetected pockets of CWD. Scientists do not know what
CWD or how it spreads. They have found no evidence that it can be
to humans or traditional livestock.
- The disorder belongs to the same family of diseases as
bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), more commonly known as mad cow
disease. A deadly human version of BSE, a new variant called
disease, killed several people in Britain after they ate BSE-tainted beef.
CWD has been present in North American deer and elk herds for decades,
but U. S. officials said recently they were puzzled by a sudden spread
of the disease following reports it had been diagnosed in Colorado, the
first positive tests in deer on the west side of the Rocky Mountains.