MDARD: Chronic Wasting Disease Confirmed in Two Farmed Elk from Kent County

For immediate release: November 18, 2021
Media contact: Chelsea Lewis-Parisio, 517-331-1151

LANSING, MI - Today, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) confirmed two cases of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in elk from a farmed cervid facility in Kent County. The two infected elk, a two-and-a-half-year-old and a three-and-a-half-year-old, were discovered through disease tracing efforts that resulted from finding CWD in a different Michigan farmed cervid herd. These are the first cases of CWD in Michigan elk.

CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects different cervid species, including white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and moose. The disease can be transmitted directly from one animal to another and indirectly through the environment. While an infected animal may appear healthy for months or years, it will eventually display abnormal behavior, progressive weight loss, and physical debilitation in the latter stages of the disease.

"The discovery of chronic wasting disease in elk housed at a facility linked to a positive animal is not surprising," said State Veterinarian Dr. Nora Wineland, DVM. "MDARD's main priority is to limit the spread of this disease by working together with other state departments, farmers, and ranchers. These findings underscore how important it is to pay attention to CWD and the movement of animals that may allow the disease to spread."

The presence of CWD in farmed cervid facilities and free-ranging deer is not new to Michigan. Since 2008, including these new cases, CWD has been detected at nine Michigan cervid farms in the following counties: Kent (2), Mecosta (3), Montcalm (3), and Newaygo.

No wild elk have tested positive for CWD in Michigan. The disease was first discovered in free-ranging deer in May 2015; cases have been found across nine counties in Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas. To date, 37 free-ranging white-tailed deer have tested positive for CWD in Kent County.  

As part of MDARD's disease response, investigations are ongoing to rule out any possible exposure to other farmed cervids.

Currently, there have been no reported cases of CWD infection in humans. However, as a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend that animals that have tested positive for CWD should not be consumed as food by either humans or domestic animals.

More information about CWD can be found at Michigan.gov/CWD or Michigan.gov/MDARD-Cervid.

###