Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

NEWS 7-14-2020:
The Kansas Department of Agriculture has confirmed a case of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in a captive (farmed) cervid herd in Osage County, Kansas, and is working with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism to mitigate risk to the captive cervid industry as well as the local wild deer population in the area. Though CWD has been detected in wild deer populations in many western Kansas counties, this is the first documented positive case in eastern Kansas and the first in a captive herd since 2001. Read the full news release here.
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a neurodegenerative disease affecting deer, elk and moose (members of the cervidae family) and is always fatal. Abnormally shaped infectious proteins called prions cause the disease and convert normal proteins into infectious ones, which eventually leads to the animal’s death. CWD was discovered in Colorado in the 1960’s and is found in the United States, Canada, and more recently, in Europe. It belongs to a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.

How is it transmitted?

The disease is believed to be spread from one animal to another through direct contact and/or environmental contamination. Infectious prions can be spread via saliva, feces, blood, urine, and other bodily fluids. CWD and other prion diseases are difficult to control because, unlike bacteria and viruses, prions are resistant to inactivation by heat, freezing, ultraviolet light, and chemical disinfectants. Prions are also resilient in many environments and can remain infectious for extended periods of time.

What are the signs in deer, elk and moose? 

Because CWD is a slow and progressive disease, signs of infection may take a long time to appear. Typical signs include behavioral changes, lack of coordination, stumbling, tremors, drooling, and weight loss. These are not the only symptoms and are not necessarily specific to CWD. Animals exhibiting these clinical signs often die within months.

How is Chronic Wasting Disease diagnosed?

It is confirmed by testing tissue samples from a dead animal’s central nervous system and/or lymph nodes. Tests, like immunohistochemistry, work by detecting antigens (prions) in those tissues.

What is the treatment?  

There is no treatment or vaccine for Chronic Wasting Disease. The disease is fatal for infected deer, elk or moose.

Is there a risk to people?

Although CWD is not known to affect humans, caution is advised. The Centers for Disease Control says to avoid eating meat from deer and elk that look sick or test positive for CWD.

How can it be prevented?  

Preventing CWD starts with surveillance, monitoring and early detection. In Kansas, tissue samples (brain stem) are tested at the Kansas State University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. Deer and elk farms are also annually inspected and producers are required to report all deer or elk deaths and when animals are moved into or out of the herd. In the event of a positive test result for CWD, the Division of Animal Health will quarantine the affected herd. Chronic Wasting Disease was identified in farmed bull elk in Harper County in 2001.  As of February of 2019, CWD has been detected in 215 wild deer.  Surveillance efforts began in 1996 and, to date, 27,117 cervids have been sampled and tested for CWD. 

Resources

Cervid Forms

Chronic Waste Disease (CWD) Application

For a copy of this form, click here.

Domesticated Deer Permit

Requires anyone who raises or harbors domesticated deer to have a permit issued by the department. Deer includes all members of the family cervidae (deer, elk, moose, caribou and related species). For a copy of this form, click here.

Domesticated Deer Movement Notification

This form is required for the intrastate movement of domesticated deer within Kansas. Deer includes all members of the family cervidae (deer, elk, moose, caribou and related species). For a copy of this form, click here.