Chronic Wasting Disease

The effects of CWD Chronic Wasting Disease in humans remains debatable. If the deer is ill or underweight we advise NOT to consume it. As this disease and the knowledge changes with time we will continue to update any new publications.

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Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a spongiform encephalopathy that is transmissible to certain species of animals. They are believed to be caused by prions which are folded or mid-formed proteins in the brain. There is no inflammatory response and it has a rapid progression. It is always fatal. Many prion diseases affect humans. To date, there is no direct evidence that CWD affects humans. It is Survive Outdoors stance that until there is confirmation in this area, it’s highly advised not to eat the meat of any wild game that appears ill. Ask yourself if you really want to roll the dice and gamble with the odds. The risk far outweighs the benefit. Studies with Macaque monkeys have shown mixed results but do lean towards them acquiring CWD from eating infected meat.

Chronic Wasting Disease Geographic location

The disease was first confirmed in Mule deer in 1967. These were captive deer in Colorado. In 1980, it was confirmed in Elk and white-tailed deer. In May 2001, it was identified in free-ranging deer in Nebraska, Colorado, and southern Wyoming. In 2006, it was expanded to northwestern Kansas, South Dakota and Utah. In 2002, it was found extensively in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. There have been isolated cases in Pennsylvania and New York. One could reasonably assume it has been underreported and is much more pervasive than it is. We know in the midwest it is in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and there have been random finds in Iowa.

Chronic Wasting Disease Symptoms

In deer, it appears in adult animals with the youngest being about 15 months. Symptoms are easily recognizable. Extreme weight loss, increased urination and thirst, tremors and walking in circles or even in a determined zig zag pattern. Clear neurological symptoms. They often loose their fear of humans. They will often lower their head and have increased salivation. It is always fatal.

Prevention and caution

  1. Wear gloves when field dressing all deer.
  2. Assess for decreased fat in your deer. CWD deer have decreased to non-existent fat.
  3. Do not feed deer as we know the spread is lateral and possible from mother to fawn. We believe transmission is from saliva and possibly lacrimal glands.
  4. If you have any questions, please contact your local DNR.