Chronic Wasting Disease: All known animals in Nordfjella dispatched

The Norwegian Environment Agency reports that the last known group of wild reindeer of Zone 1 in Nordfjella has been felled. Now the area is to be searched to make sure it is cleared of animals. 17 cases of CWD have been detected in reindeer from Nordfjella.

− I would like to express my sincere thanks to the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate and all hired crew for the demanding work they have performed under sometimes difficult conditions in the mountains, Norway's Minister of Agriculture and Food Jon Georg Dale says. "Efforts such as theirs will be vital if we are to succeed in eliminating a serious animal disease like CWD," Dale says. 

− I'm very pleased that the process of culling the wild reindeer in Nordfjella Zone 1 has gone well, and also that it has been completed well before the calving season, says Dale. 

− It is saddening to see a breakout of this disease here, and so was having to make the decision to take out the entire herd. Now we are ready to focus on reestablishing a healthy local reindeer population in Nordfjella, Minister Jon Georg Dale says. 

17 confirmed cases of CWD 

A total of 1407 wild reindeer have been put down in the Nordfjella zone 1 since the task of clearing the area started on November 7th last year.

On February 25th, the Norwegian Environment Agency field staff of the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate (SNO) dispatched the last known group of 23 animals. The objective was to clear Nordfjella zone 1 of all reindeer before May 1. SNO has already organized a systematic search for any wild reindeer possibly still remaining in the mountains. Samples are taken from all Nordfjella animals, and these are sent to the Veterinary Institute for analysis. As of today, there have been 17 confirmed  cases of CWD in Nordfjella reindeer; one additional case remains yet to be confirmed. 

International attention

Norway's extensive efforts to eradicate CWD and prevent it spreading to the rest of Europe has gained international attention. As well as culling the entire Nordfjella herd, about 37,000 other individual cervids have been examined.

− In a recent meeting I had with EU Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, he lauded the Norwegian effort and its measures to eradicate the disease and to gain knowledge about various strains of the infectant, Minister of Agriculture and Food Jon Georg Dale says.

EU Commissioner Andriukaitis stated that the experience of Norway will be particularly useful when the EU continues developing new regulations for surveillance of and measures against CWD infection.

− The work Norway has done has been recognised. The EU is now looking to Norway with regard to counter-measures to CWD at European level, because we now have increased knowledge and valuable experience, Dale says. 

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) - a disease similar to scrapies in sheep or BSE in cattle - where misfolded proteins, called prions, accumulate in the brain and lead to great suffering and death for any infected animal.

When the Veterinary Institute last year discovered CWD in Norway, it was the first case in Europe, and the findings immediately spurred a program of tissue sampling of Norwegian cervids (moose, wild reindeer, domestic reindeer, deer and roe deer).

It was decided that the Nordfjella herd had to be eliminated before May 1 2018. The goal is to contain and if possible eradicate the disease. If one can prevent the disease from spreading, many animals can be spared the suffering it brings them. After a fallow period, the plan is to reestablish a healthy local reindeer population in Nordfjella.

Wild reindeer.
Wild reindeer. Credit: Colourbox