Chronic wasting disease meetings scheduled

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has scheduled four public meetings in the Northern Shenandoah Valley later this month and in October on the spread of chronic wasting disease.

Dr. Megan Kirchgessner, department wildlife veterinarian, said the meetings will focus on the expanded containment area and hunting regulations aimed at curbing the spread of the disease.

In late February, department biologists confirmed a positive case of the disease in the northern portion of Shenandoah County, near Front Royal – which is farthest the disease has been detected in Virginia.

As a result of this detection, the department expanded its containment borders to include the counties of Warren, Clarke, Frederick and Shenandoah. The expansion also included hunting policies and regulations.

Chronic wasting disease is a deadly neurological disease similar to “mad cow” disease that – as far as scientists known up to this point – only affects cervid species, and contains a high mortality rate. It has been slowing spreading across the nation since its discovery more than 30 years ago.

“It has not been detected in humans or any domestic animal,” Kirchgessner noted.

With no cure or approved vaccine available, agencies have been focusing on slowing the spread of the disease through preventive measures like containment areas and stricter hunting policies.

“Any deer that is killed in any one of those four counties, it could be transported to the other three,” Kirchgessner said. “But it cannot be brought out of the containment area. It’ll have to be butchered and quartered in the containment area.”

Certain parts of the deer, such as the brain, spinal tissue and anything connected to its nervous system, must remain in the containment area.

Kirchgessner said these parts are “most likely to be contaminated by the infectious agent” that causes the disease.

Department officials, district biologists and disease technicians will be  at each meeting to discuss the policies with local residents, landowners and hunters as well as to answer any questions.

“We’ll do a very brief, maybe 15-20-minute presentation on what people need to know about hunting in the containment area,” Kirchgessner said, adding that the remaining time will be devoted to questions.

The meetings will begin at 7 p.m. at:

• The Warren County Government Center in Front Royal on Sept. 21.

• Enders Fire Department in Berryville on Sept. 22.

• The Alson H. Smith Jr. Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Winchester on Oct. 13.

• The Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors Meeting Room in Woodstock on Oct. 15.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com