This is the second case of TSE to be confirmed in a cervid in Finland. The disease was found in an elderly female moose (Alces alces) found in poor condition and killed in Laukaa, Central Finland. The first cervid TSE case diagnosed in Finland was in a 15-year-old moose that had been found dead in Kuhmo in early 2018. TSEs in cervids progress slowly and always lead to the animal’s death. Cervid TSE is not known to have ever been transmitted to humans.
The female moose was estimated to be 18 years old and was found during a moose hunt. The animal was wasted and lying on the ground. The head of the animal was sent to the Finnish Food Authority to be examined for TSE at the end of October.
CWD (chronic wasting disease) and other TSE (transmissible spongiform encephalopathy) diseases in cervids belong to the same group of brain diseases such as mad cow disease (BSE, bovine spongiform encephalopathy) and are caused by prions. CWD is commonly found in North America. CWD was first discovered in Europe in wild reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus) in Norway in 2016. The entire population was destroyed to prevent the disease from spreading. However, this year CWD was again found in Norway in the reindeer population neighbouring the one that had been destroyed.
Because of the cases in Norway, the EU started a three-year monitoring programme in Sweden, Finland, Poland and the Baltic states. The occurrence of TSEs in wild cervids and in reindeer has been monitored in Finland since 2003. A total of around 5,000 animals have been examined in Finland so far, with only two giving a positive result. Similar sporadic cases of TSE have been found in old moose also in Sweden and Norway. However, this is a different disease to the infectious CWD found in North America and in the wild reindeer in Norway.
As far as is known, the form of TSE found in old moose has not been transmitted from one animal to another and its detection does not result in consequences like in the case of the infectious CWD. As a precaution, sampling of cervids in the Laukaa area will be intensified. No cervid TSE is known to have ever been transmitted to humans. Neither in the case of CWD that is easily transmitted from one cervid to another.
The three-year CWD monitoring programme will conclude at the end of the year but the sampling target is still short of a total of some 500 samples in Finland. The Finnish Food Authority requests reindeer owners’ associations, hunters and Finnish executive assistance in large game matters (SRVA) to send samples from throughout Finland. All cervids more than a year old that have been rejected by meat inspection, found dead, sick or killed due to illness or which have died in an accident are suitable as samples.
The intention is to continue monitoring after the three-year monitoring programme, but the content of this will be announced at a later date.
Hanna Kuukka-Anttila, Senior Inspector, tel. +358 29 520 4507 (animal disease control)
Maria Hautaniemi, Senior Researcher, tel. +358 29 520 4227 (laboratory examinations)
Antti Oksanen, Research Professor, tel. +358 29 520 4792 (wild animal diseases)
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