Archive for Saturday, December 8, 2001

Elk tests positive for wasting disease

December 8, 2001

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— A captive elk has tested positive for chronic wasting disease, marking the disease's first time in Kansas.

The diseased elk was part of a herd near Anthony. The animal had been bought from an elk ranch in Colorado, according to Kansas Livestock Commissioner George Teagarden.

The disease is similar to scrapie in sheep and mad cow disease in cattle, but it is not a danger to domestic livestock in the region, Teagarden said.

"There is no evidence that this disease has crossed from one specie to another," he said. "This disease affects elk and deer. But it doesn't spread to cattle, sheep or goats from infected elk or deer."

The disease does spread between elk and deer, though, creating concern that infected captive elk herds spread the disease to free-roaming deer, which often mingle with domestic elk.

"At this point, we know it is a slow-spreading disease, but we don't know exactly what causes it or how contagious it is in wild herds," Teagarden said.

He said three Kansas ranches had bought 11 animals from the infected area in Colorado. The state has slaughtered all but two of the elk for testing, and only one animal tested positive for the disease.

He said the state is negotiating to buy the other two animals purchased from the Colorado ranch so they can be slaughtered and tested.

There is no live animal test for chronic wasting disease, which is a member of a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathy or TSE.

Teagarden said state policy prohibited him from identifying the owner of the herd with the infected elk.

Chronic wasting disease is a degenerative neurological ailment in a family of diseases that include scrapies in sheep, mad cow disease in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.

Officials have quarantined the Anthony herd where they found the infected animal and likely will slaughter and test those 13 animals, too, Teagarden said.

Detection of the disease in Kansas worries elk ranchers such as Don and Gayle Bartel, who have been growing elk on their Butler County farm for more than a decade.

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