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DEC: No sign of chronic wasting disease in New York

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A statewide test of about 2,500 deer showed no sign of chronic wasting disease in New York, the state Department of Environmental Conservation reported Friday.

The disease, which causes degeneration of the brain, abnormal behavior, emaciation and death in deer, elk and moose, is found in 22 states, and is in the same family of illness as mad cow disease. It has not been reported in humans, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Testing for the disease has taken place annually since 2002. The last confirmed case of it was found in 2005.

The state reported that in the past few years researchers have altered their assessments to take population density, deer age and sex into account, ensuring the collection of samples from the highest-risk areas.

The state’s tests were aided by public reporting of sick animals, DEC said, allowing researchers to perform full necropsies to determine cause of illness or death for the animals.

“DEC thanks cooperating hunters, meat processors and taxidermists that contributed samples for testing,” department Commissioner Joe Martens said. “Successful CWD surveillance depends on all of us.”

The state’s concerns about the illness come as it was found in Pennsylvania in both captive white-tailed deer and wild, free-ranging white-tailed deer in 2012. DEC rules forbid hunters going to Pennsylvania and other states with the disease to bring back whole carcasses.

The department said prions, the protein that causes the disease, concentrate in tissues like the brain and spinal cord and remain infectious to other deer. However, hunters are allowed to bring meat and cleaned skull caps and capes back.

The department said that preventing the movement of infected animals was the key to avoiding the disease’s spread. Among the advice given to hunters to avoid spreading the disease was to debone meat and use synthetic alternatives to deer urine, which can carry the infectious prions.

More information about the state’s work to stop the spread of the disease can be found at http://wdt.me/rgEnnz.

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