Game Commission Plans Chronic Wasting Disease Drill

To better prepare should chronic wasting disease be identified in the state, Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe has planned a CWD-response drill in the first quarter of 2007, for the agency to test its CWD response plan and preparedness. The decision to hold the drill was a product of two recently held meetings to review and update the state’s response plan, as well as the agency’s internal operational plan.

On Aug. 2, the Game Commission hosted a CWD “tabletop exercise” that involved representatives from seven state and federal agencies to review Pennsylvania’s CWD Response Plan. Bryan Richards, U.S. Geological Survey CWD Project Leader, spoke about the current knowledge of CWD and, in particular, news about prion behavior. He also emphasized the importance and implications of environmental contamination as it relates to disease prevalence, the state of knowledge of the various species barriers because they influence the potential for CWD prions to become a human pathogen, and experiences of several states in managing CWD.

During this meeting, Bob Boyd, Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Management assistant director, and Dr. Walter Cottrell, Game Commission wildlife veterinarian, reviewed the Pennsylvania Interagency CWD Response Plan and the Game Commission’s CWD Operational Plan.

“As part of the exercise, Bryan Richards presented scenarios and then moderated informal discussion of possible responses,” Dr. Cottrell said. “He built these scenarios to include discovery of CWD in both wild and captive settings in different parts of Pennsylvania.

“He also injected different constraints to our possible responses, including one scenario that involved National Park properties where NEPA compliance would be needed before response, and adverse public reaction.”

As a follow up to the interagency meeting, on Oct. 25, the Game Commission CWD task force reviewed the results of the tabletop exercise and prepared recommendations on updates to the State Response Plan, as well as the Game Commission’s Operational Plan based on the latest available information.

“At this meeting in October, Executive Director Roe determined, along with the support of the rest of the task force, that the Game Commission should schedule an exercise to practice role-playing in response to a mock CWD suspect case just within the Game Commission,” Dr. Cottrell said.

Roe made it clear that Game Commission personnel are taking the CWD threat to Pennsylvania’s wildlife seriously, and are doing everything possible within current funding levels to monitor for the disease and be prepared to respond should it be found within the state.

“With CWD being uncovered in two neighboring states, we must continue to plan and act as if it is a matter of not ‘if CWD is found,’ but rather ‘when CWD is found’ in Pennsylvania,” Roe said. “We will remain vigilant in our efforts to search statewide for signs and evidence of CWD, and continue to prepare the state’s coordinated response for discovery of the disease.

“As the state’s wildlife management agency, we have a statutory responsibility to protect the Commonwealth’s deer and other wildlife. It is a responsibility the Game Commission has shouldered for more than 100 years.”

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