Yikes! Just two weeks later, a post has outdated information. Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is now found in 28 states - not 27 as I posted December 30, 2021. The additional state where a wild white-tail deer has been found to have CWD is Alabama. Yes, the disease is spreading!
Chronic wasting disease is an always-fatal prion disease similar to "mad-cow disease" (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) in cattle. This disease is only found in cervids - deer, elk, reindeer, and moose. Medical opinion is that there is a species barrier, a "thin molecular barrier" preventing crossing over of the prion disease to cattle and humans.
Why the concern? The concern is that this disease will jump to humans, especially in people who eat contaminated meat. No human cases have been detected, but health officials warn people to avoid eating meat from CWD infected animals.
Therefore hunters are advised to bring hunter harvested heads of deer, elk, and moose for testing. In Alabama it's at drop-off freezer or sampling stations.
In chronic wasting disease there is a long incubation period, followed by the brain becoming progressively like a sponge - riddled with holes, along with deterioration in brain function, behavioral changes, and eventually death. A horrible slow death. There are no treatments or vaccines.
One scary thing about CWD is that once it gets into the soil, it stays there for years, and high heat, disinfectants, and radiation don't kill it. Yikes! Dr.Zabel at the Colorado State Univ. Prion Research Center suggested a few years ago that controlled burns (fires) of infected fields or areas could eliminate the prions left behind by infected animals (from animal mucus/saliva, urine, and feces, and decaying carcasses) on plants and soil.
An article with advice for how hunters can protect themselves, and a map of where CWD is found in the US.: 5 Ways Hunters Can Prevent Spreading Chronic Wasting Disease
A Chronic Wasting Disease Resource Center monitoring the situation and publishing information and research on its site is CIDRAP (Center for Infectious Disease and Policy). From the Jan. 14, 2022 news scan, CIDRAP: With positive test in a deer, Alabama becomes 28th state to detect CWD
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been detected for the first time in Alabama, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) confirmed last week.
A sample collected from a hunter-harvested white-tail deer in west-central Lauderdale County has tested positive for CWD, an always fatal disease that has been detected in North American deer and related cervids like elk and moose. The disease has now been found in 28 US states and four Canadian provinces.
The sample from the CWD-positive deer was submitted as part of the state's surveillance efforts. Preliminary tests were performed at the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, with confirmation provided by the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa.
"CWD was first detected in Tennessee and Mississippi in 2018 and has been moving slowly toward Alabama," said Chris Blankenship, ADCNR commissioner. "We take the presence of this disease very seriously, which is why we developed a plan of action using CWD best practices to deal with the disease."
The ADCNR has designated all of Lauderdale and Colbert counties as a CWD management zone, which opens the area to more hunting. The agency also designated an area in Lauderdale County surrounding the new detection as a high-risk zone, wherein hunters are now required to submit heads for CWD testing from all deer that they harvest.
CWD has yet to be detected in people, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns against eating the meat of cervids that test positive for the prion disease.