Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has awarded Virginia Tech's Conservation Management Institute (CMI) a research contract to help organize the data into one system. This database will allow scientists and managers to share information on the disease and improve their ability to address the problem nationally.
While different agencies have different interests, from encouraging hunting to protecting wildlife and human health, scientists all over the country have a compelling need to research and learn more about the disease. Currently, more than 50 different agencies across the country are collecting samples -- creating a massive need for data management even though only nine states have actually documented CWD. With the completion of CMI's work, the data from these samples can be entered into one database system and used nationwide.
CWD is an untreatable, fatal neurological (brain and nervous system) disease found in deer and elk in certain geographical locations in North America. The disease belongs to a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE), which attack the brain and neural tissue of infected deer and elk. While CWD is similar to mad-cow disease in cattle and scrapie in sheep, there is no known relationship between CWD and any other disease of animals or people.
It is not known exactly how CWD is spread. It is believed that the disease may be spread both directly (animal to animal contact) and indirectly (soil or other surface to animal). The disease has been diagnosed in elk in game ranches in Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, Montana, Oklahoma, Kansas, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.