Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a contagious neurological disease that has been found in deer, elk and moose – collectively called cervids.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a contagious neurological disease that has been found in deer, elk and moose – collectively called cervids.

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), CWD can be transmitted through direct animal-to-animal contact or contact with saliva, urine, feces, blood, and/or certain carcass parts such as brain tissue and spinal cord of an infected animal. It is caused by prions and can remain in the environment for more than 10 years.

Prions infected with CWD cause small lesions in the brains of infected animals resulting in death. Infected deer may show no signs of disease or illness for several years. Advanced signs of CWD infection include:

  • Emaciation
  • Abnormal behavior including loss of fear of humans
  • Loss of bodily functions

Read more in the MDNR Chronic Wasting Disease Frequently Asked Questions PDF.

Deer hunting & processing

Hunters play an important role in limiting the spread of chronic wasting disease. The MDNR has several ways to have deer checked and tested for CWD. See a map of deer check stations in Michigan.

There have been no known transfer of CWD to humans at this point. Based on CDC recommendations, MSU Extension recommends not consuming venison from CWD positive animals.

Meat processors should consider additional protocols when processing deer that have been tested for CWD until a negative result is obtained. Some meat processor resources include:

Michigan CWD cases

Since discovered in Michigan in 2015, Michigan State University AgBioResearch scientists and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources have been working on a plan to identify areas of the state that are at high risk for CWD based on deer behavior and population dynamics. The plan depends on a model that combines deer population density, proximity to bordering states where CWD has been confirmed and disease transmission to predict where CWD will likely emerge and spread.

See more chronic wasting disease resources from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

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