Michigan CWD symposium brings together national wildlife, disease experts

Wildlife scientists and other experts from across the country gathered last week in East Lansing, Mich., for the state’s Chronic Wasting Disease Symposium – an opportunity to share ideas and focus on finding solutions for containing CWD, a fatal neurological disease that first emerged in Michigan’s free-ranging, white-tailed deer population in 2015.

Hosted Oct. 3-4 by the Michigan DNR and Department of Agriculture and Department of Rural Development, along with the Michigan Natural Resources Commission and the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center, the two-day workshop brought together approximately 200 individuals from a variety of backgrounds, according to a DNR news release Tuesday, Oct. 10.

“There was an impressive list of experts who are internationally known for their research on chronic wasting disease,” stated Dr. Kelly Straka, DNR wildlife veterinarian. “There were representatives from several universities, including Georgia, Colorado State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Midwestern and Michigan State.”

In addition, the symposium welcomed speakers from state agencies representing Illinois, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Wyoming, and, as well as several nongovernmental and government agencies including the Quality Deer Management Association, the North American Deer Farmers Association, the United States Geological Survey and the United States Department of Agriculture.

Presentations covered topics including:

  • The first five decades of CWD evolution.
  • Disease transmission and pathogenesis (how it developed).
  • Maternal transmission and species susceptibility.
  • Transmission by saliva, feces, urine and blood.
  • Plant uptake and antemortem testing.
  • Social impacts of the disease.
  • The role of genetic influences.
  • The importance of applied research.
  • Perspective on captive cervid communities.
  • CWD management in various states.

Several members of Michigan’s recently formed CWD workgroup (with representation from both the Natural Resources Commission and the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development) were on hand to hear and consider the latest CWD information being shared.

The CWD workgroup was created to advise the NRC, the DNR and other applicable agencies on further steps and actions that could be implemented to substantially mitigate or eliminate chronic wasting disease in Michigan. The group held its first meeting Oct. 5 and is set to deliver recommendations to the NRC and the DNR by Dec. 31. Upon receipt of those recommendations, the NRC and the DNR will develop an appropriate process for public review and feedback.

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