CWD is a Disease of the Nervous System
Chronic Wasting Disease leads to a slow death and is a disease of the nervous system in deer and elk that results in distinctive brain lesions. It continues to be a major issue for wildlife scientists throughout the Nation, and a key focus for research at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC).
Research is concentrated on:
- Understanding how the disease is transmitted among elk and deer, understanding the patterns of infection, and determining how infection rates differ according to age and sex of the animal.
- Searching for indications of genetic resistance to CWD, and developing tools for understanding CWD epidemics.
- Studying the role that infected deer carcasses play in CWD transmission and how feeding and baiting may affect transmission patterns.
- Exploring the susceptibility of small mammals and their potential role in the transmission of CWD.
The NWHC continues to investigate CWD in Wisconsin and throughout the Nation. NWHC scientists provide general information, consultation, and assistance to state agencies. NWHC staff participate in the multi-agency CWD Science and Health Team and the Research Team, providing analyses and advice crucial to determining the distribution of the disease in and around the Midwest.
Through collaboration and research, NWHC scientists seek a better understanding of the dynamics of CWD in wild populations as it expands over different landscapes. Scientists at the NWHC are committed to the belief that collaboration with many different agencies is critical to understanding and controlling this disease.
Chronic Wasting Disease Quick FactCWD infects elk, white-tailed deer, and mule deer, but is not known to infect livestock or humans at the present time. No treatment is known and the disease is typically fatal.
Though there is no evidence CWD is transmissible to humans, it is recommended to never ingest meat from animals that appear to be sick or are known to be CWD positive. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends hunters who have harvested a deer, elk, or moose from a known CWD-infected area have the animal tested prior to consuming it. If hunters harvest an animal that appears to be sick, the best thing to do is contact FWP and have the animal inspected.
Some simple precautions should be taken when field dressing deer, elk or moose:
- Wear rubber gloves and eye protection when field dressing.
- Minimize the handling of brain and spinal tissues.
- Wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field dressing is completed.
- Avoid consuming brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes of harvested animals. (Normal field dressing coupled with boning out of a carcass will essentially remove all of these parts.)