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Chronic Wasting Disease

Chronic Wasting Disease is a progressive, debilitating and invariably fatal disease of deer and elk.

  • First recognized in 1967.
  • Clinical signs include progressive weight loss, behavior changes, and listlessness.
  • Classified as a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy or "prion" disease.
The disease has been found in greatest numbers among free-ranging deer and elk in north central Colorado and southeastern Wyoming.
  • CWD has affected mule deer, white-tailed deer, black-tailed deer and elk.
  • A few CWD cases have been found in western Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
  • CWD has been diagnosed in farmed elk herds in several states including Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
  • CWD has been identified in both free-ranging white-tailed deer and privately owned elk in Saskatchewan, Canada.
  • No CWD cases have been found in Minnesota to date.
Transmission between animals is likely by animal-to-animal contact and/or contamination of feed or water sources with saliva, urine or feces from a diseased animal.

Current information indicates that CWD does not cause illness in people.

  • The known prion diseases of humans and domestic animals are different than CWD. Public health and wildlife officials have developed some recommendations for hunters.
  • Do not consume meat from any deer or elk that looks or acts sick.
  • Hunters should wear gloves when field dressing carcasses and wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field dressing.
  • Do not consume brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils, and lymph nodes from deer and elk.

Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources, Board of Animal Health, Department of Health and the University of Minnesota are actively collaborating to watch for signs of CWD and keep the public informed.

Click here to check out the Minnesota DNR website for more information.

Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association
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