|WASHINGTON - The first case of chronic wasting disease outside the US Midwest or Rocky Mountain region was confirmed in a white-tailed deer in New York State, the state's agriculture department said on Thursday.|
Chronic wasting disease, which is not believed to harm humans, is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, part of a family of central nervous system diseases that include scrapie and mad cow disease.
"This is not a public health threat, but it is a slow-moving animal health threat," said Bruce Akey, New York's assistant state veterinarian.
The New York Agriculture Department said the animal that tested positive for CWD was a 6-year-old white-tailed doe that was slaughtered from a captive herd in Oneida County.
The disease, which is not believed to harm other domestic livestock, has been found in a dozen US states in the Midwest and Rocky Mountains.
"So far, there is no known connection with any previously identified CWD positive herds or areas in the United States," Akey told reporters.
New York officials said they quarantined the herd where the infected deer was found, and would kill the remaining animals to test their brains for the disease. The state also quarantined other herds associated with the infected animal.
Symptoms of the disease, which has a long incubation period, include weight loss, stumbling, tremors, lack of coordination and listlessness, according to the US Agriculture Department.
Scientists do not yet know how the disease is transmitted among animals.
The disease has been found in Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
The US Centers for Disease Control advises consumers to avoid eating venison from any deer that might be infected with the disease as a safety precaution.
However, New York State Health Commissioner Antonia Novello said there were no cases of humans falling ill from eating suspect deer meat.
"We feel very comfortable saying there would be no public health risk to consuming venison," she said.
Story by Randy Fabi
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE