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Massive Disease Outbreak on Iowa Deer Farm

An Iowa deer breeding facility has become a hotbed for Chronic Wasting Disease. 

Last Thursday, Iowa animal health officials released the CWD test results conducted on an Iowa breeding operation. The results show that the vast majority of deer at the facility became infected with the fatal malady that affects deer, elk and moose.

Of the 356 deer killed on the farm, 284 tested positive for CWD. That’s a nearly 80 percent infection rate, which hasn’t been since 2006. Deer must be killed to be tested for CWD because there is no approved live-animal test for the disease. 

According to the Indy Star, the owners of the farm, Tom and Rhonda Brakke, found their first infected deer in 2012 on a hunting ranch they also own. That same year, the family reportedly opted out of voluntary CWD testing for the animals in their stock. In Iowa, all deer killed on hunting preserves must be tested for CWD. 

Tom Brakke said his hunting ranch operation killed 230 deer before the tests conducted this summer on his stock. Of those deer, only two infected deer were found.

The Brakkes spent two years in court fighting for the right to sell deer from their breeding operation to hunts, or to get a $1.46 million payout from taxpayers for their losses. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has agreed to pay the Brakkes $917,000 for their losses. Tom Brakkes claims his stock is worth $2 million.

The state of Iowa decided to quarantine the Brakke’s breeding operation, fearing the disease might spread if the animals had moved. The family will have to keep an eight-foot-high fence around their property for at least five years.

The last time there was a CWD infection rate this bad was in 2006 on a breeding operation in Wisconsin. 80 percent of the 76 deer tested there were positive for CWD. It was so bad that state wildlife officials bought the property from the owner and permanently quarantined it.

There’s not conclusive evidence to suggest CWD can affect humans. The Center for Disease Control claims more studies are needed to determine if the disease can pass from animals from humans. One thing is for certain: CWD presents a serious threat to deer, elk and moose populations, and as such, it should be monitored and contained as much as possible.


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Massive Disease Outbreak on Iowa Deer Farm