The recent news of the Ebola virus being diagnosed in the United States raised many concerns. As well it should. The disease is on one of its largest killing sprees in western Africa.
It made its way into the U.S. after we were told a couple of weeks prior that it was highly unlikely the virus could spread here. The Center for Disease Control assured everyone that we were completely prepared to prevent it from coming over as well as control it with the citizens we brought back for medical treatment.
In the aftermath, we have found out the CDC was completely caught off guard when it was diagnosed in Texas. The medical personnel there were not prepared to handle anyone who may have exhibited the symptoms of Ebola. The Hazmat teams were not at the ready for cleanup and containment. In other words, we blew it. It could have easily have been worse, and hopefully it will not get worse as the next week or so plays out with those the patient was in contact with.
The deer equivalent to such a devastating disease is Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). CWD is not detectable in live animals and has long incubation periods. It is also always fatal. Several states have been affected with CWD in their various deer herds. Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia have all been hit with CWD. Once CWD has been found in a herd, it has never been eradicated.
Fortunately, North Carolina has an extensive plan to prevent an outbreak if it is ever spotted here. Recently, the state tested 3,800 wild deer that were either taken by hunters or road kill, in which none were discovered to be infected. This is another case in which the estimated 260,000 deer hunters assist in the conservation of our wildlife.
However, if, at some point CWD is discovered in the state, the CWD Response Plan will be implemented. First, the states will set up a surveillance area within a 10 mile radius of the infected deer.
To prevent attracting more deer from coming into the surveillance area, all baiting and feeding will be banned. The state will also set up mandatory check stations for deer harvested by hunters to check for potential spread of the disease by testing for CWD in the harvested deer.
Hunting seasons and times may be expanded in order to collect more samples for testing, as well as reduce the herd in the infected area.
All deer and deer parts, including the meat, antlers, skulls, and fur, within the surveillance area cannot be transported out without special treatment and labeling.
And of course, wildlife enforcement patrols will increase within the surveillance area to ensure compliance with the requirements.
Our plan is solid and seems to be well thought out. However, it does not take a lot of change to cause something like this to falter.
Let’s go back to the Ebola patient for a moment. Our only prevention of the spread from his home country to the U.S. was a questionnaire on whether he had been in contact with someone who was diagnosed with the disease. It was discovered he had been in contact with a pregnant woman who was suffering from the symptoms and later died. He answered he had not.
North Carolina is considering legislation to allow the opening of more captive deer farms. Remember, CWD cannot be detected from live animals. By opening these deer farms it increases the risk of bringing CWD from another state into our own without us ever knowing about it. Even a captive herd can have interaction with a wild herd. The only thing separating the two in most instances is a high fence.
We may need to look at the lessons given to us by our own species in order to protect other species who cannot protect themselves.