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CWD November 2002

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Published on: Nov. 2, 2002

Last revision: Nov. 12, 2010

is transmitted. One theory focuses on a durable strand of protein, known as a prion. Although not considered highly infectious, prions may nevertheless be transmitted from animal to animal by frequent direct or indirect contact. This helps explain why the disease was first noticed among confined animals. Some deer seem immune to CWD, suggesting that genetic susceptibility may vary among animals.

Prions are believed to be species-specific. They seem only able to function in the species in which they originated or within small groups of closely related species.

Is Venison Safe to Eat?

A World Health Organization (WHO) panel of experts and the Missouri Department of Health have reviewed available information on CWD and stated that there is no evidence that CWD infects humans.

Since the disease was discovered more than 30 years ago, no illnesses or deaths related to CWD among the nation's 16 million deer hunters have been found. It hasn't affected domestic livestock either. CWD has only affected deer and elk.

It's prudent to safeguard yourself when handling any kind of meat. The Conservation Department consistently recommends that hunters not shoot or process any deer that is obviously sick, and that they protect themselves from any diseases or parasites deer may carry by wearing rubber gloves while gutting a deer. Prions have not been found in the muscle tissue, or "meat," of CWD-infected deer. Instead, prions seem to be concentrated in an infected animal's brain and spinal cord.

Controlling CWD

Keeping Missouri's deer herd healthy has always been a primary goal of the Conservation Department. That's why the agency is working with Missouri's departments of Health and Agriculture, the captive cervid industry, hunters, taxidermists, meat processors and other groups to minimize the potential for CWD entering the Show-Me State.

Steps taken to protect Missouri deer include:

  • Requested participation of the captive cervid industry in our efforts to address CWD.
  • Initiated efforts to ensure state agencies work in partnership.
  • Strengthened regulations associated with the movement of live elk and deer.® Developed a monitoring program for the captive cervid industry.
  • Initiated monitoring of the state's free-ranging deer herd.
  • Established a State CWD Task Force.

On the national front, federal agricultural and wildlife officials are helping to coordinate a national approach to address CWD concerns, including educational and research efforts. Legislators are trying to work the provision into new legislation and hope to have funding in place some time in 2003.

Because of the remote possibility that CWD might already exist here undetected, the Conservation Department, like most Midwestern states, is stepping up its testing program. The tests should determine whether any CWD occurs in Missouri.

Missourians can help in the effort to control CWD by cooperating with the sampling program and reporting any obviously diseased deer.

Thanks to active management, Missouri's deer herd has rebounded from a few hundred animals in the early part of the 20th century to nearly a million animals today. Deer provide countless hours of viewing opportunity and sporting activity for Missourians, and venison sumptuously graces the tables of hunters' families. With the help of Missouri citizens and the efforts of our state's departments of Health, Agriculture and Conservation, we intend to keep it that way.

CWD Testing

Approximately seven states were testing free-ranging herds prior to 1998. Fourteen states had begun testing for CWD by the year 2000. Currently, 37 states have some type of testing program to monitor free-ranging herds. As of October 2002, fewer than 300 free-ranging animals have tested positive for chronic wasting disease in the U.S.

States that have documented CWD in wild deer or elk
State Began Testing Year Found
Colorado 1981 1981 (elk and deer)
Nebraska 1997 1997 (deer)
New Mexico 2000 2002 (deer)
South Dakota 1998 2001 (deer)
Wisconsin 1999 2002 (deer)
Wyoming 1981 1986 (elk and deer)

 

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