Chronic Wasting Disease

What Is It?

  • Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a neurological disease caused by a prion. A prion is an abnormally folded protein.

Why Is It Important?

  • CWD is an infectious, ultimately fatal disease of mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, and moose with no known treatment, vaccine or cure.

Where Is It Located?

Who Is Affected By It?

  • Captive populations of elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer and wild populations of mule deer, white tailed deer, elk, and moose in several states and provinces in Canada.
  • There is no known transmission of CWD from free-ranging or captive cervids to humans or domestic cattle.

How Does Infection Occur?

  • CWD belongs to a group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE's) that are not fully understood.
  • Transmission is thought to occur through environmental contamination from body fluids or carcasses of infected animals.
  • Uninfected animals ingest prions from the environment or possibly by direct contact with infected animals.
  • Extensive close contact is likely required for transmission to occur, therefore, high density populations, such as artificial feeding sites or game farms, are at higher risk if infected animals are present within the population.

How Do I Keep Myself, My Family, and My Pets From Becoming Affected?

Even though there is no evidence that CWD is transmitted to humans, it is recommended that no part or product of any animal with evidence of CWD should be consumed.
  • Do not harvest or eat wild animals that appear sick.
  • Wear latex or plastic gloves when field dressing and processing game.
  • Cool the carcass as quickly as possible after killing.
  • Clean equipment for butchering before and after working with a carcass.
  • Avoid contact with brain and spinal tissues, ideally by boning out the carcass.
  • Avoid consumption of brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen and lymph nodes of harvested animals.
  • Cook all game meat thoroughly.

What Is Idaho Fish and Game Doing to Help Manage This Disease?

  • Idaho Fish and Game has been conducting surveillance for CWD in deer and elk since 1997. Samples are collected from road-killed deer and elk, hunter killed animals and animals that are found dead.
  • Idaho Fish and Game has developed a CWD response plan in the event CWD is found in free-ranging or captive cervids in Idaho
  • Cooperating with the Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) to implement CWD rules for captive cervids.
  • Prohibiting the importation of mule deer, white-tailed deer and moose by private parties.
  • Eliminating feeding sites that concentrate deer and elk which can increase risk of CWD transmission.
  • Conducting surveillance of deer and elk primarily using samples collected at hunter check stations.
  • Providing public education about this disease.
Mule deer
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Last Updated: August 8, 2012 
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