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Health & Safety

Chronic Wasting Disease

White-tailed DeerChronic Wasting Disease, or CWD, is a disease that attacks the nervous system of free range or wild elk, white-tailed deer, mule deer, and moose. Chronic Wasting Disease is a part of the same group of diseases as transmissible spongiform encephalapathies (TSE). The disease causes holes to form in the brain and spinal cord. CWD is fatal, and there is no treatment. The Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance website has resources and information for hunters and others who may come into contact with animals that have CWD.

The first recorded case of Chronic Wasting Disease was in the 1960s. Since then, there have been cases in eleven states, including New York, Michigan, and Colorado. There have also been over 40 cases in Canada. CWD has become a concern because of the occurrence of free-range animals contracting the disease from wild animals. There is also concern about the cost to combat Chronic Wasting disease. More information about these concerns is located on the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation web page.

There are several symptoms of Chronic Wasting Disease. They include poor body tone, drooling, excessive urination, drooping ears and head, and teeth grinding. If these symptoms are noticed, the animal should be tested. If the test comes back positive, the animal needs to be destroyed. Animals in areas that have been affected by CWD should be carefully harvested. Butchers should be cautious to not cut into the brain or spinal cord, and to remove all muscle and fat from the meat before it is prepared.

Chronic Wasting Disease is spread the same way as most other viruses. It is spread through contact, saliva, feces, or urine. The disease cannot be spread to other animals or to humans. One of the studies on potential transmission to humans is available from the Center for Disease Control.

Not a lot is known about Chronic Wasting Disease.  It is a relatively recent condition, and there are only a few cases each year. It hasn't been determined where or when the disease originated, and a pattern of spread hasn't been determined. There is ongoing research into Chronic Wasting Disease, improving testing techniques, search for connections between deer movement and the spread of CWD, and determining if it is possible for CWD to affect cattle. 

Resources on Chronic Wasting Disease:

Chronic Wasting Disease - Center for Disease Control

Ohio Division of Wildlife

New York State Department of Health

Colorado Division of Wildlife

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