The Minnesota Board of Animal Health (MBAH – says a farmed elk, a seven-year-old female, from an Olmsted County herd tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

As part of mandatory surveillance program requirements, the elk’s brain stem and lymph nodes had been submitted to USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, IA, after slaughter. NVSL confirmed the animal had CWD, and MBAH quarantined the herd on Jan. 23.

Minnesota implemented mandatory registration and CWD surveillance programs for farmed cervidae herds in 2003. When farmed cervidae over 16 months of age die or are slaughtered, herd owners must submit brain samples for CWD testing.

CWD is a fatal brain and nervous system disease found in cervidae in certain parts of North America. The disease is caused by an abnormally shaped protein called a prion, which can damage brain and nerve tissue.

Infected animals show progressive loss of body weight with accompanying behavioral changes. In later stages of the disease, infected animals become emaciated (thus “wasting” disease). Other signs include staggering, consuming large amounts of water, excessive urination, and drooling. There is no evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans.
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