LDWF supports bill to study, stop spread of CWD

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A bill by Louisiana Congressman Ralph Abraham, M.D., R-Alto, aimed at stopping the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a major step in the right direction to combatting the ailment, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Secretary Jack Montoucet said.

Dr. Abraham, a former veterinarian, has introduced a bill that requires the Secretary of Agriculture to partner with the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science (NRCNAS) to study and identify the ways CWD is transmitted between wild, captive and farmed cervids. This will provide a credible and scientifically-based foundation of understanding of the disease that can help end its spread.

“We at LDWF fully support Dr. Abraham’s legislation to curtail and, hopefully, stop the spread of CWD,’’ Montoucet said. “It is certainly something that we have devoted many resources to in the past few years. We launched a major effort earlier this year to head off the disease when a white-tailed deer was detected with CWD, just across the river, by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

“Having NRCNAS as part of the fight will aid us in continuing to make sure CWD is held in check,’’ Montoucet said. “It has not been found in Louisiana and our goal is to make sure we keep it out of our white-tailed deer population.’’

“CWD could have devastating effects on Louisiana deer populations and, possibly, other mammals,’’ Dr. Abraham said. “The best hope we have for controlling CWD begins with understanding how it spreads. We don’t have that right now. Since so little information exists on this topic, my bill would instruct some of the brightest scientists in the country to study and learn more about CWD so that we can stop it.’’

The bill, HR 6272 , has four original cosponsors: U.S. Reps. Glen Thompson, R-Pa.; Ryan Costello, R-Pa.; Tom Marino, R-Pa.; and Paul Gosar, R-Ariz. It has been referred to the House Agriculture Committee, of which Dr. Abraham is a member.

LDWF worked with the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission last year to implement a carcass importation ban, a viable step in preventing the disease from entering the state via infected carcass parts harvested in CWD detected states.

Additionally, LDWF continues cooperative discussions with other state and federal agencies in the fight against CWD and to prevent it from entering the state.

CWD is a neurodegenerative disease found in most deer species, including moose, elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer. It is infectious and always fatal. It is part of a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) and is similar to BSE (Bovine spongiform encephalopathy or mad cow disease) of cattle and scrapie in sheep. These diseases cause irreversible damage to brain tissue that leads to salivation, neurological symptoms, emaciation and death of the animal.

Deer infected with CWD can spread the disease even before symptoms develop. It can take one to two years for infected animals to become symptomatic. When symptoms appear, they can include emaciation, lethargy, abnormal behavior and loss of bodily functions. Other signs include excessive salivation, loss of appetite, progressive weight loss, excessive thirst and urination, teeth grinding and drooping ears.

It has been found in 25 states, including Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas.