Kansas Elk Found With
Brain-Wasting Disease

TOPEKA, Kan. (Reuters) - Kansas officials have determined that a captive Kansas elk has tested positive for a disease similar to mad cow, spurring concerns that the illness could spread among the state's wildlife.
The disclosure comes a week after Nebraska officials said that four whitetail deer had tested positive for chronic wasting disease. The fatal ailment damages portions of the brain and is similar to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease, which has been found in cattle in Europe.
More than 100 people in Europe have died from a human variant of mad cow disease.
"This is not a time for panic, but it is a time for precautions," Lloyd Fox, a biologist with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, told Reuters in an interview. "There is so much unknown about this series of disease."
Officials said the captive herd exposed to the infected elk has been quarantined and will likely be killed. The single elk that has so far tested positive was shipped into Kansas from a Colorado herd.
Chronic wasting is a spongiform disease affecting mule deer, white-tailed deer and elk. It has been identified in wild deer and elk in northeastern Colorado, southeastern Wyoming and southwestern Nebraska.
Though uncommon, the disease appears to be increasing in the United States, according to health and wildlife officials, who say they know little about how it is transmitted or how long an infected area remains contaminated even after the sick animal is removed.
In October, the Colorado Department of Agriculture said it would destroy about 1,450 ranch-raised elk that may have been exposed to chronic wasting disease.
The disease is in the same family of fatal brain-wasting ailments as mad cow disease. Unlike mad cow, however, CWD has not been linked to human illness. CWD has been present in U.S. deer and elk for decades, mostly in Western states.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Sept. 27 it had authorized $2.6 million for a CWD surveillance and indemnity program.
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