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

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 recommended the culling of the reindeer herd in the region of Nordfjella, an inland mountain area in southern Norway.

This article was first published 30.03.2017

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 of Aurland, Laerdal, Hemsedal, Hol, Al and Ulvik. Shortly after two moose (Alces alces) were diagnosed with the disease in a different region, further 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 NVI's previously stated scientific opinion. This constitutes a drastic and serious measure, but this must be weighed against the possible consequences of this disease spreading further," says researcher and CWD co-ordinator Jørn Våge from the NVI.

"The full effect of such a measure 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 reducing 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 emphasises 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

The 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 an understanding of the spread of CWD, the differences between different varieties of the disease in reindeer and moose, understanding 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 the NVI tested more than 10,000 samples from different deer species in Norway. Wild reindeer from the bordering districts of the Nordfjella region 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 conclude 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. The NVI has extensive experience in diagnostics, research, and management of infectious diseases in both livestock and wildlife, and will continue assisting the authorities with this demanding task in the coming years.

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