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Report supports the Norwegian Veterinary Institute`s view on management of CWD

Report supports the Norwegian Veterinary Institute`s view on management of CWD

Reindeer. Photo: Colourbox

The Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety (VKM) presented a report this 29th of March on Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Norway, in which they recommend the withdrawal of the reindeer herd in the region of Nordfjella, a mountain area situated inland, in southern Norway.

It was in 2016 that the Norwegian Veterinary Institute (NVI) diagnosed CWD in wild reindeer in this region. This was the first time CWD was detected outside North America and South Korea, and the first time it was detected in reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus). The region includes the municipalities Aurland, Laerdal, Hemsedal, Hol, Al and Ulvik. Shortly after two moose (Alces alces) were diagnosed with the disease in a different region, further up north in the municipality of Selbu, Trøndelag County.

−VKM’s report recommendation to slaughter the reindeer herd from the area of Nordfjella is in line with the Norwegian Veterinary Institute`s previously stated scientific opinion. This constitutes a drastic and serious measure, but this must be weighed against the possible consequences of this the disease spreading further, says researcher and CWD coordinator Jørn Våge from the Norwegian Veterinary Institute. –The full effect of such a measure in holds some uncertainty, but the knowledge we have today requires us to adopt a precautionary approach. If the disease in reindeer is limited to the region in Nordfjella, early measures will increase the chances of preventing the disease from spreading to new areas. Fast implementation will also contribute to reduce the extent of contamination of the environment. This is important in order to enable a repopulation of this area at the earliest possible chance, says Våge.

Våge emphasizes that there is considerable uncertainty associated with CWD in Norway after last year's detections. He says monitoring and further research are essential to ensure proper management.

Research on CWD at the Norwegian Veterinary Institute
NVI is already working on several research projects that will provide essential knowledge for the best possible management of this disease in Norway. Projects include understanding of the spread of CWD, the differences between different varieties of the disease in reindeer and moose, understanding of the genetic prerequisites for infection in Norwegian animal stocks and the development of an in vivo CWD-test.

In 2016 the monitoring work on CWD intensified, and NVI tested more than10, 000 samples from different deer species in Norway. Wild reindeer from the bordering districts of the region Nordfjella have also been examined, but so far, no CWD-infected animal has been found in these areas. Since the sample size is still too low, one cannot however withdraw conclusions whether this area is really CWD free or not. Information collected so far on positive animals, points to two types of CWD (one for reindeer and one for moose).

Monitoring of CWD will continue in 2017. NVI has long experience in diagnostics, research and management of infectious diseases in both livestock and wildlife, and will continue assisting the official authorities with this demanding task in the coming years.