BATON ROUGE—The Louisiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab (LADDL) in partnership with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries (LDWF) has detected chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer on the Mississippi-Louisiana border. CWD had not been detected in deer in Louisiana as of February 1, 2022, although it has been detected in 26 states, including three states bordering Louisiana. On February 4, LADDL reported a confirmed case of chronic wasting disease in a Louisiana deer to LDWF. The specimen to be tested came from an adult male harvested by a hunter and taken from private land in the parish of Tensas. After initial testing by LADDL, the specimen was sent to National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa, which confirmed the diagnosis.

LADDL has received a grant of over $380,000 titled “Increasing Capacity for Screening for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)” from the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) USDA Farm Bill for 2022. The purpose of this grant from NAHLN is to increase CWD testing capacity in Louisiana. In the event that CWD is detected in Louisiana, regional sampling rates will be significantly increased in an effort to determine the prevalence of the disease in the affected area. Statewide chronic wasting disease surveillance will also increase. The NAHLN USDA Farm Bill funding will be used to expand LADDL’s immunohistochemistry (IHC) testing capabilities through automation and additional equipment for IHC staining to meet LDWF’s future CWD testing needs.

CWD is a degenerative infectious disease of cervids (deer). Animals infected with CWD do not show symptoms until the terminal stages of the disease and can transmit the disease to other deer, making monitoring and screening for the disease in the population very important. During the 2019-2020 deer season, 173,000 Louisiana deer hunters harvested approximately 171,000 white-tailed deer. In Louisiana, white-tailed deer herd health and disease surveillance are managed by the LDWF.

Although CWD has not been shown to be contagious to humans, the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization advise against the human consumption of deer known to be infected with CWD. Additionally, it is recommended that people hunting in areas known to harbor CWD-infected deer have their deer tested for the disease before consuming the animals. LDWF will provide free testing for deer shot by hunters. Hunters wishing to have their culled deer tested for CWD can contact local LDWF offices to have their deer tested.

LDWF and LADDL have a common interest in diseases that affect white-tailed deer, including CWD. Samples are taken from deer shot by hunters and targeted deer, including symptomatic deer and enclosure escapes. The samples are then sent to LADDL for testing. This current USDA Farm Bill grant will allow LADDL to upgrade its previous CWD testing system so that it can more than triple the capacity and efficiency of monitoring CWD testing in Louisiana.

The Louisiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab is an AAVLD-accredited full-service laboratory. Installed in the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, LADDL serves the people of Louisiana and surrounding states by providing diagnostic services for animal and public health-related diseases to the farming and general communities. LADDL enhances research development and adaptation of diagnostic tests and protocols, researches and studies livestock and companion animal diseases impacting the health and welfare of Louisiana animals and citizens, and studies selective diseases impacting the economics of Louisiana’s animal industries. LADDL operates in partnership with Louisiana State University, LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, Louisiana Veterinarians, Livestock and Poultry Farmers, LDWF, Louisiana Department of Agriculture, and Louisiana Department of Health.