Chronic wasting disease - What to expect if your animals may be infected
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Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal disease of cervids, such as deer, elk and moose. CWD is not known to affect human health, but it does have implications for trade.
In Canada, CWD is a "federally reportable disease." This means that producers or veterinarians must notify the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) of all suspected or confirmed cases.
Animals with CWD may show a number of different signs as the disease progresses. These include the following:
- lack of coordination
- separation from the other animals in the herd
- excess salivation
- unusual behavior
- weight loss
- difficulty swallowing
- increased thirst and urination
These signs can typically last for weeks or months before the animal dies; however, some animals may not show clinical signs except for acute pneumonia. While animals are usually three to four years old before clinical signs appear, clinical signs have been seen in animals as young as 18 months or as old as 13 years.
CWD disease control
The CFIA takes immediate actions in response to CWD. These can be triggered by a producer or veterinarian reporting sick or dead animals, by routine surveillance testing or by investigations on other properties. While the actual response can vary, the steps involved in a CWD response currently include the following:
- destruction and disposal
- cleaning and disinfection
After December 31, 2017, if cervids are confirmed to be infected with CWD, a CFIA staff member (usually the district veterinarian) will contact the regional administrator of the appropriate voluntary herd certification program (VHCP) for CWD to inquire if the farm is enrolled in the program.
During 2018, if the farm is successfully enrolled on a VHCP, then a CFIA staff member visits the farm to meet with you. Those that are not successfully enrolled on a VHCP won't be subject to any federal control measures.
When the CFIA staff member visits, a precautionary quarantine will be placed on the farm. The CFIA employee will give you documentation outlining the rules of the quarantine, discuss your responsibilities, and answer any questions you may have.
Quarantines are necessary to control the potential spread of disease. The most likely means of spreading CWD is through close contact between cervids or through contaminated soil, equipment or other material.
Under the quarantine, no animals are allowed to enter or leave the property. In addition, hay, feed and animal products (for example, antler velvet) are not allowed to leave the farm.
While the property is under quarantine, you also have certain responsibilities.
- to maintain fences and gates around the farm to control the movement of animals and animal products
- to report all sick and dying animals, and any that escape the farm
- to report any wild cervids that enter the farm
- to clean and disinfect all farm tools and equipment that may have been exposed to infected animals
- to inform all persons entering the farm of the quarantine
Once the quarantine is in place, the CFIA will immediately begin assessing the health of all animals on the farm. The CFIA will also review farm records to determine recent movements of animals in or out of the farm. To help CFIA staff in their investigation, you may be asked to provide the following:
- herd test records
- veterinary records and laboratory reports
- a detailed description of farm management practices
- records of purchase/sale of animals
- animal movement permits
- animal slaughter records
- farm visitor logbooks
- a map of the farm
- contact information for farm veterinarian.
Your cooperation and that of any other people and organizations involved is critical to the success of the investigation.
Destruction and disposal
All cervids that may have been exposed to a confirmed infected animal on the farm are humanely destroyed and disposed of. Samples are taken from all of the destroyed animals for testing, which provides valuable information about the disease on the farm.
When the CFIA district veterinarian determines that animals on a farm may have been exposed to a CWD-infected animal, he or she issues an "order for destruction." It outlines what is to be destroyed, how, and what may be awarded in compensation.
Under the Health of Animals Act, the CFIA may compensate owners of cervid operations for animals ordered destroyed because of disease.
Compensation awards are based on market value, up to the maximum amounts established by regulations.
For more details on the compensation process, please see Animal Health Compensation: What to expect when an animal is ordered destroyed.
Common disposal methods include burial on the farm or at another site,Footnote 1 controlled rendering or incineration. Destruction, disposal and transportation costs may be covered by the CFIA.
Animal products derived from destroyed animals, such as antler velvet, are quarantined while samples from those animals are tested. Velvet and other products from animals testing positive for CWD are ordered destroyed.
Using records and other information provided, CFIA staff also trace the movements of any cervids that may have come into contact with the infected animal(s). This includes locating animals that have moved off the farm within the past five years, and examining movement records of the infected cervid(s). These activities help determine whether other farms also need to be investigated.
Cleaning and disinfecting
Once all destruction and disposal activities have been completed, the farm must be properly cleaned and disinfected. This process includes:
- disposing of potentially contaminated materials and items, such as feed and feed containers
- cleaning and disinfecting hard surfaces and structures
- cleaning and disinfecting tools and equipment
The CFIA district veterinarian will help you develop an effective cleaning and disinfecting plan. Cleaning and disinfecting costs are your responsibility.
Removal of quarantine
Once cleaning and disinfecting is complete, the CFIA evaluates the farm to determine when the quarantine may be removed.
Once the quarantine is removed, you are free to introduce new animals to the farm in accordance with regular CFIA and provincial permit requirements.
As directed by the Privacy Act and other federal statutes, the CFIA is required to protect private information collected. Any information you provide during a disease response situation is treated as confidential, unless otherwise indicated.
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