CWD Transmission

How is CWD transmitted?

How the pathogenic prion is transmitted from diseased animals to healthy ones is believed to be through direct animal to animal contact and/or contamination of feed or water sources with saliva, urine, and/or feces. Numerous organizations and individual scientists across the United States and Canada are continuing to conduct detailed investigations in an effort to obtain a definitive answer to the route of transmission. Evidence shows that infected carcasses may serve as a source of infection. CWD seems more likely to occur in areas where deer or elk are crowded or where they congregate at man-made feed and water stations. Artificial feeding of deer and elk will likely compound the problem.

Is CWD transmissible to humans?

Public health officials and the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia have found no link between CWD and any neurological disease in humans. Visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevetion website is located here for more information.
To minimize their risk of exposure to CWD, hunters should:

  • Consult with their state wildlife agencies to identify areas where CWD occurs and take appropriate precautions when hunting in such areas.
  • Avoid eating meat from deer and elk that look sick or that test positive for CWD.
  • Consider having the deer or elk tested for CWD before consuming the meat if the animal was harvested from an area known to have CWD-positive animals. (Information about testing is available from most state wildlife agencies.
  • Wear gloves, bone-out the meat from the animal, and minimize handling of the brain and spinal cord tissues when field dressing an animal.

Is CWD transmissible to domestic livestock?

According to experts, there’s no evidence that CWD can be naturally transmitted to domestic livestock. Chronic wasting disease is similar in some respects to two known livestock diseases:

  • Scrapie, which affects domestic sheep and goats worldwide and has been recognized for over 200 years; and
  • Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), which is a more recent disease of cattle in Great Britain and Europe. BSE has been found in Canada, and in the United States.

Though there are similarities, there is no evidence suggesting either scrapie or BSE is caused by contact or close association with wild deer or elk.