The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has given notice of changes to the Program Standards for the chronic wasting disease (CWD) herd-certification program for cervids. The agency will accept public comments until March 31, 2014. The notice includes instructions for submitting comments.

CWD is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, or TSE, a classification of fatal, degenerative neurological disease that includes BSE in cattle, scrapie in sheep and Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (CJD) in humans. CWD affects cervids, or members of the deer family, and there currently is no evidence the disease can affect humans or other animals. The disease was first identified in captive deer in Colorado, and since then, outbreaks in wild herds have been associated with exposure to captive deer or elk. An APHIS website dedicated to CWD offers history of the disease, diagnostic information and links to other resources.

The CWD herd certification program is a voluntary, cooperative program that establishes minimum requirements for the interstate movement of farmed or captive cervids, provisions for participating States to administer Approved State CWD Herd Certification Programs, and provisions for participating herds to become certified as having a low risk of being infected with CWD. The Program Standards provide optional guidance, explanation, and clarification on how to meet the requirements for interstate movement and for the Herd Certification Programs.

The proposed changes to the program standards are based on input from a group of state, laboratory, and industry representatives which APHIS organized to review the program and develop recommendations.

The revised draft Program Standards document is available online from APHIS.