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Minnesota CWD Investigation Complete

October, 2003

St. Paul, Minnesota — After more than 12 months of tracing and testing, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health has completed its Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) investigation in Minnesota’s farmed elk.

Since the investigation began, 332 elk were euthanized and tested in Minnesota and 77 elk were euthanized or quarantined in other states. Producers were compensated for their animals through an indemnity program administered by the Veterinary Services division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Minnesota Board of Animal Health Assistant Director Paul Anderson said the investigation was a success.

“Staff members from the Board, USDA Veterinary Services and the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory have worked tremendously hard to trace and test all of the animals involved in this CWD investigation,” said Anderson. “But, the speed and accuracy at which all of this took place could not have happened without the cooperation and dedication of the Minnesota elk producers.”

The first Minnesota case of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was identified on August 30, 2002. The disease was found in a five-year-old bull elk on a farm near Aitkin. The animal had been ill for several months and died with symptoms typical of CWD.

An investigation was initiated by the Board to locate, euthanize and test all other cervidae that might have been exposed to the disease. The process involved 51 Minnesota elk herds and 28 herds in other states. Exposed animals were traced to Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

During the investigation, two more elk tested positive for CWD. One was found on January 15, 2003. It was a three-year-old elk cow from a farm near Sauk Centre, Minnesota. This animal was euthanized and was not ill at the time of its death. The other was found in March 2003. This animal was a seven-year-old elk cow located on a farm near Valders, Wisconsin.

The source of the infection was not determined, but the three CWD-infected elk did have a connection. All three were housed on the Sauk Centre, Minnesota, farm during the summer of 2000. Clinical histories for the elk strongly suggest that exposure may have occurred during this period of time. The timing from exposure to development of clinical symptoms in all three of the animals is consistent with a normal incubation period for CWD in elk, which is between 16 to 34 months.

Anderson said the Board is currently working with producers to help them understand and comply with the 2003 Minnesota legislation requiring cervidae registration with the Board and mandatory CWD-surveillance.


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