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Province orders mandatory testing for fatal wildlife disease in southeast B.C.

Mandatory testing area includes areas south of Cranbrook, west of the Elk Valley.
A male mule deer pictured in Kimberley. Kimberley Bulletin file

Mandatory testing for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been ordered by the provincial government in the southeast corner of the Kootenays after two deer identified south of Cranbrook recently tested positive for the condition.

The mandatory testing order applies to cervids — deer, moose, elk, caribou — while additional measures include restrictions on the transport and disposal of any road-killed cervids in the area.

The restrictions apply within the Initial Response Area, where the two deer were discovered, which is defined as Management Units 4-2, 4-3, 4-4, 4-5, and a portion of 4-22.

The area essentially runs along the border of Highway 3 to the west and south of Cranbrook, along the Canada/United States border and east to the Macdonald Range in the Elk Valley.

Chronic wasting disease is an infectious and fatal disease affecting species in the cervid family, such as deer, elk, moose, and caribou. It is a condition of the central nervous system caused by infectious agents called prions, which kill cells in the brain as they accumulate and lead to neurological disease.

Prions also accumulate in other tissues and may be shed by the infected animal into water or on plants and bedding through saliva, urine and feces. It is 100 per cent fatal with no known treatment. However it is not known to affect humans or livestock.

There is no direct evidence that the disease can be transmitted to humans and there have been no cases of the disease in humans. However, to prevent any potential risk of transmission or illness, Health Canada and the World Health Organization recommend people not eat meat or other parts of an animal infected with chronic wasting disease.

CWD has been detected in other Canadian provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan, as well as into the Pacific northwest states such as Idaho and Montana. Since 2002, B.C. has conducted a surveillance and response program for chronic wasting disease to lessen the risk of the disease spreading into the province.

Based on that surveillance and response plan, the provincial wildlife veterinarian is leading the response with support and input from the chronic wasting disease advisory committee and regional working groups, which include First Nations, stakeholders, experts on chronic wasting disease and other partners.

Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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