Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)



Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a contagious “transmittable spongiform encephalopathy” (TSE) effecting deer and elk (wapiti) in North America. To date, this disease has been found only in members of the deer family. It was first recognized as a clinical "wasting" syndrome of mule deer at a wildlife research facility in northern Colorado in 1996. It was identified as a TSE in 1978. CWD is typified by chronic weight loss leading to death. Other than one suspected case there is no known relationship between CWD and any other TSE of humans or other types of animals..

By 2002, CWD has been confirmed in deer and/or elk in: Colorado Wyoming Nebraska Wisconsin South Dakota New Mexico Illinois

There are three main theories as to what causes CWD and other similar diseases in other animals and humans: 1. Prions ( protein infectious particles) are infectious protein structures found in central nervous systems which replicate through conversion of other host proteins. The process they use to replicate themselves is unknown. 2. An unconventional virus which has not been isolated. 3. An incomplete virus composed of nucleic acids maybe coated with natural proteins which is too small to be detected by the body’s immune system..

CWD normally occurs in adult animals and always fatal. The most obvious symptom of CWD is weight loss, behavioral changes, including decreased interactions with other animals, listlessness, lowering of the head, blank facial expression, and repetitive walking in set patterns. In elk, behavioral changes may also result in extreme excitement and nervousness. Diseased animals tend to continue to eat grain but develop a decreased interest in hay. It should be safe to eat meat from deer and elk infected with CWD but if you kill a suspect animal but I would deliver it to the nearest state or provincial wildlife authority instead.


TheJanuary 28, 2006 issue of Science News reported thatUniversity of Tennesee, Lexington researchers have found muscles in infected CWD deer carry "prions". This has previously not been reported. The previous thought has been that they were found only in brain and spinal tissue leaving muscle and other meat safe for consumption. With confirmation I personally would not eat deer meat from areas with confirmed cases Chronic Wasting Disease(CWD)even if well cooked.

See what the HHS-Centers For Disease Control has to say about human risk of Deer Chronic Wasting Disease

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