Chronic Wasting Disease is a rare, neurological disease that is found in cervids (members of the deer family). This disease attacks the brain of infected elk and deer. It causes the animal to behave in an abnormal manner and become slowly emaciated. It eventually leads to death. There have also been several cases found in wild moose.
This disease presents a significant danger to the elk and deer population of North America. If left unchecked it could drastically alter the future of elk and deer.
Chronic Wasting Disease is a transmittable disease. It is part of the group of diseases that are known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies or TSE's. Prions are small, abnormal, proteinaceous, infectious particles that are thought to be the cause of TSE's.
Mule deer, White-tailed deer, Moose, Rocky Mountain Elk and quite possibly some other elk species are the only animals that can naturally contract Chronic Wasting Disease. There is currently no 100 percent accurate way to identify how the disease is spread. It is thought to be spread from animal to animal through direct contact with urine, feces and saliva. There is some evidence to support the theory that Chronic Wasting Disease may be indirectly spread through environmental contamination with infected surfaces.
There is at the present time no known treatment for Chronic Wasting Disease and it is always fatal. There is no existing evidence that this disease poses any threat to either humans or domestic animals.
The United States Department of Agriculture along with several other environmental organizations are working together to find a solution to this problem. Research is being conducted to come up with a cure or at least find a way to prevent and slow the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease. Detecting and identifying the disease quickly as it occurs is also an effective way to prevent its spread by isolating and destroying the infected animals.
There have been several regulatory actions taken to help with this problem. They include restrictions on importing live deer, elk or moose, liberating live deer, elk or moose, importation and possession of certain animal parts and carcasses, requirements for taxidermists that handle deer, elk or moose and restricting deer and moose feeding.
Chronic Wasting Disease has been found in the states of Colorado, Illinois, Wyoming, New Mexico, Oaklahoma, Kanas, Nebraska, South Dakata, Wisconsin and Minnesota. It has also been found in Alberta, Canada and in South Korea. Currently there have been no cases of CWD reported in Florida or any other southeastern state.