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Kit shortage has slowed chronic wasting disease testing

Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on

Published in Outdoors

MILWAUKEE -- Production problems at a U.S. manufacturer have delayed chronic wasting disease testing this fall on thousands of deer submitted by hunters in Wisconsin and other states.

The shortage of CWD test kits could not have come at a worse time for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

A backlog of about 3,600 samples built up during the nine-day gun deer season in November, the state's annual peak of hunting activity and deer harvest, said DNR wildlife director Eric Lobner.

The agency urged hunters to submit deer for testing this fall, a voluntary but critical component of monitoring prevalence and distribution of the fatal deer disease.

And more hunters responded this year. Through Dec. 3, the DNR had received 7,609 samples from hunters, a 24 percent increase from the number received in all of 2016 and the most since 2008, according to state figures.

The lack of test kits caused samples to pile up in the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Madison.

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The DNR issued a statement Monday on social media regarding the delay in testing and urging patience by hunters.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources made a similar announcement Dec. 1, stating, "This situation is not unique to Michigan; there is a national shortage. The Michigan DNR originally placed its testing kits order earlier this summer."

The supply problems were due in part to increased demand as more states ramped up CWD testing this year. But the manufacturer, Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc. of Hercules, Calif., also had internal production issues, according to laboratory managers in several states.

Chronic wasting disease is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, a family of prion diseases that includes Mad Cow and scrapie. CWD is fatal to whitetails and other members of the deer family but has not been shown to cause illness in humans.

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