THE impact of a wasting disease killing large numbers of deer in America and Canada is to be spelled out at the Scottish Game Fair this weekend.
The British Deer Society (BDS) and the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) will exhibit information sheets on their stands outlining the nature and impacts of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).
CWD is a highly infectious disease which has killed every known deer infected with it in the USA and Canada, where it is currently confined.
To date there are no effective vaccines to treat the disease which is caused by a prion transmitted in deer fluids and body parts.
There are concerns that if steps are not put in place to halt its spread, it could lead to loss of large numbers of wild deer across the world and restrict sales of venison.
It could also spread into Europe, with potential repercussions for country sport tourism which generates significant sums annually.
John Bruce, director in Scotland of BDS said: “Our intention in raising awareness of CWD is not to raise alarm. No threat to humans, for example, has been found.
“On the other hand, it is vital people are aware of it and can start taking preventative measures now to stop it moving across borders.
“The prion, transmitted in deer urine, faeces, saliva and meat can remain infectious for up to ten years when bound to soil and defies normal farm disinfection processes.
“Infected deer may take 18-24 months to exhibit clinical signs and will become more infectious to other deer during this time.
“CWD has infected both wild and farmed deer in USA and Canada, with red deer also susceptible. Efforts to control CWD is USA and Canada would seem to have failed.”
A possible route of transmission into the UK could be through countryside users bringing in contaminated clothing and equipment.
A specific risk group which has been identified is individuals who have been deer stalking in North America where CWD is present.
George Macdonald, Development, Education and Training Manager at the SGA said: “If the disease became established stopping its spread might be extremely challenging or practically impossible.
“By raising awareness, sporting agents can make prospective clients from USA or Canada aware of the issues.
“They can tell them in advance to check all their kit for cleanliness or advise them, if possible, to buy their sporting equipment in this country upon arrival rather than bring it with them.”
“If people are bringing clothing or equipment to the UK from USA or Canada they should make sure it is clean of all potential contamination.
“This would significantly reduce the risk of introducing CWD into this country, although it will not eliminate the risk.
“It is also important stalkers do not bring trophies back into the UK from USA or Canada.”
The group of diseases CWD belongs to are known as ‘TSE’, short for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.
A leaflet, produced by the British Deer Society, gamekeepers, deer groups, vets and Scottish government will be launched officially in August.
However, with sporting agents and countryside groups bound for the Game Fair at Scone, BDS and SGA , who have driven the project, feel the Game Fair is an opportune moment to raise awareness of how the disease could be prevented from spreading.
The game fair is being held in the grounds of Scone Palace this weekend.