Chronic Wasting Disease
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a progressively degenerative
fatal disease that attacks the central nervous system of members of
the deer family. To date, it has been diagnosed in elk, mule
deer, black-tailed deer, white-tailed deer, and moose. CWD is
one of a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform
encephalopathies (TSEs). These diseases are characterized as
transmissible because they can be transmitted from one infected
animal to another. They are further classified as spongiform
due to the "spongy-like" areas which form in the brain of the
infected animal, hence the encephalopathy portion of the name.
The scientific community generally accepts that the infectious
agents of CWD are prions. Prions are abnormal proteins that
seem to have the ability to alter the structure of normal proteins
found in the body of the animal they enter. Logical natural
methods of prion transmission include, but may not be limited to,
secretions and excretions from infected animals. A study
conducted at Colorado State University found that CWD can be
transmitted experimentally from saliva and blood. Also, human
activity contributes to environmental prion contamination.
Prions are hideously durable and impervious to most disinfectants
and natural conditions, remaining in the environment for years.
Animals suffering from CWD typically behave abnormally by
separating themselves from their usual social group. They
often stand alone, with a drooped posture, and may not respond to
human presence. As the disease progresses, they will appear
very skinny on close examination and will salivate, drink, and
As of October 2014, CWD has been diagnosed in 20
states and 2 Canadian Providences. CWD is currently present
in wild cervid populations in Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota,
Nebraska, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Illinois, Utah, New York, West
Virginia, Kansas, Virginia, Missouri, North Dakota, Pennsylvania,
Saskatchewan, and Alberta. CWD is present in captive cervid
populations in Minnesota, Oklahoma, Michigan, New York, Colorado,
Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Ohio,
Pennsylvania, and Montana. Chronic Wasting Disease
has not been found in Mississippi.
A total of 1,015 samples were taken from free-ranging
white-tailed deer in Mississippi during the 2009 - 2010 sampling
period. Samples were obtained from hunter-harvested animals,
spring herd health evaluations, target animal surveillance, and
road-killed animals. Samples were obtained from 71
counties. The samples were submitted to the Southeastern
Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia
following the 2009 - 2010 hunting season and were tested for
evidence of the CWD agent using immunohistochemistry. Evidence of
CWD was not detected in any of the tested samples. Samples are be
taken once again during the 2010 - 2011 hunting
All public health officials maintain that venison is safe for
human consumption. However, hunters who wish to take
additional steps to avoid potential unnecessary contact with prions
or environmental contamination can do the following:
- Avoid shooting, handling, or consuming any animal that appears
sick. Contact the MDWFP at 601-432-2199 if you see or harvest
an animal that appears sick.
- Wear latex gloves when field dressing or processing deer.
- Avoid eating or contact with brain, spinal cord, spleen, lymph
nodes, or eyes.
- Cut through the spinal cord only when removing the head.
Use a knife designated solely for this purpose.
- Bone out meat to avoid cutting into or through bones.
Remove all fat and connective tissue to avoid lymph nodes.
- Dispose of all carcass material, including the head, in a
landfill or pit dug for carcass disposal purposes.
- Either process your animal individually or request that it be
processed without adding meat from other animals.
- Disinfect knives and other processing equipment in a 50% bleach
solution for a minimum of one hour.
- Discontinue baiting and feeding which unnaturally concentrate
For more information visit the CWD Alliance