STATE COLLEGE, CENTRE COUNTY - Since 1998 the Pennsylvania Game Commission has tested approximately 43,000 deer and elk samples for Chronic Wasting Disease, and now, 3 deer samples have tested positive for it.
Two of the samples are from Blair County, one in Frankstown Township and one in Freedom Township, while the third came from South Woodbury Township in Bedford County.
"Ultimately this will affect deer populations, even if it's slow and insidious," said Walter Cottrell, wildlife veterinarian for the Pennsylvania Game Commission. "It will get worse and it will expand distribution on the landscape," he added.
CWD is a neurological disease affecting deer and elk that cause the animals to appear disoriented, lose fear, drool, deteriorate and eventually die. It's not known to be contagious to humans, but it has been known to devastate deer populations in states such as Wyoming, West Virginia, Virginia, Wisconsin and Maryland to name a few.
The PA Game Commission plans to set-up disease management areas around the locations where the deer samples were taken with hopes of finding out how far the infected deer may have traveled, and how many other deer may be affected.
Cottrell says that may be easier said than done.
"The incubation period of CWD can be anywhere from 10 to 24 months," he said. "In some cases it can take 5 years before it appears."
According to the Center for Disease Control, CWD is not known to be a risk to humans, but the PA Game Commission always discourages eating meat from deer that appear sick.
The PA Game Commission is encouraging people who think they see deer with symptoms of CWD to call their regional game commission office.