Minnesota state animal health officials confirmed last Friday that Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) killed a farm-raised elk in Aitkin County in the middle of August. Authorities aren’t sure how the disease spread to the animal, but immediately quarantined the herd and began testing other elk to determine exposure levels.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources was already developing plans to test approximately 5,000 white-tailed deer harvested during hunting season this fall because of the outbreak discovered earlier this year in neighboring Wisconsin. And that plan will go into effect as intended. However, officials say they also will immediately begin testing wild deer near the elk farm with the confirmed case of CWD.

This unwelcome verification adds Minnesota to the ever-growing list of states infected by the disease. Once thought to be a “Western problem,” CWD is an incurable brain disease that slowly kills deer, elk, moose and caribou. Since its discovery in a small area of Colorado and Wyoming, the affliction has expanded to Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, seven more Wisconsin white-tailed deer recently harvested from the eradication zone in the southwest part of the state tested positive for CWD, brining the state total to 31.

Health officials reiterate that they don’t believe the disease can infect humans, and livestock producers are assured that the disease shouldn’t jump species into domestic animals. However, hunters are cautioned to avoid eating animals that don’t appear to be healthy. And medical specialists continue to investigate the deaths of three acquaintances from neurological disorders, because wild game meals were a common bond between the men.

Government officials continue to lobby USDA for funding and laboratory certifications to speed up testing. Wisconsin Governor Scott McCallum again last week urged U.S. Ag Secretary Ann Veneman to help states fight the disease.

Associated Press, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Wisconsin Ag Connection