Chronic Wasting Disease Topic of Discussion at Penn State Cooperative Extension Banquet | News

BROOKVILLE — Andrea Korman said chronic wasting disease (CWD) “is an incurable and life-threatening brain disease” found in deer species. In Pennsylvania, this includes white-tailed deer and elk.

Korman has been a CWD biologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission since 2019. Previously, she held several wildlife positions, monitoring and managing species ranging from alligators in Texas to bighorn sheep in Colorado. She spoke about the history and efforts to control the disease as a guest speaker at Penn State Extension Jefferson County’s annual dinner meeting.

She said many cases have been reported in the deer population “but luckily our elk haven’t got it yet.”

CWD is a contagious disease that can be contracted “through direct animal-to-animal contact. There is currently no vaccine, no treatment of any kind,” Korman said. “There is no immunity either.”

She said the first documented case of CWD was in Colorado in 1967. In 2002, “it crossed the Mississippi River” and is now found in 30 states and four Canadian provinces.

Korman said statewide testing for CWD began in Pennsylvania in 2003, though the first case was not detected in Pennsylvania until 2012, in Adams County in a captive service establishment. “We looked for him a long time before we found him.” A few months later, wild deer shot by hunters and suffering from CWD were discovered in Blair and Bedford counties. “With the distance between them, they’re not necessarily related. It’s hard to say how CWD got to Pennsylvania. In 2014, there were two reports in Jefferson County.

She said the Game Commission was trying to minimize the spread of the disease in the state. “Every time we find a detection, we place a DMA (Disease Management Area) around it, trying to ‘limit the risk of human-assisted spread of the disease,'” she said. Currently there are seven DMAs in Pennsylvania.

“We are seeing more and more hunters harvesting multiple positive deer.” She said several strategies are being implemented in DMAs “to reduce the risk of spread, reduce the risk of transmission.” Some of the strategies include banning deer feeding. “It is illegal to feed deer in a DMA,” she said. “There is also a ban on the use of urine-based attractants. There are no regulations requiring captive facilities to test these urine products, so that they may contain CWD.”

Another strategy is to prohibit the movement of high-risk parts of slaughtered deer, including the head, lymph nodes, spleen and spinal cord.

Korman said reducing deer abundance in affected areas “is currently the best tool we have.” At the same time, “we are trying to find ways to allow hunters to catch more deer”.

Responding to questions from the audience, Korman said: “There’s no specific evidence that people are getting it, but CWD is a serious threat to a cherished public resource in Pennsylvania and the Game Commission is doing everything in its power. its power to try to manage this public threat.We are using all the tools at our disposal to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease.

Anyone who wants more information about chronic wasting disease can visit the Game Commission’s webpage at

Jessica C. Bell