Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

What is it?

CWD is a fatal neurological disease found in deer and elk. It is caused by infectious proteins, called prions. The prions change healthy proteins into abnormal proteins, which in turn affects additional healthy proteins. Infected deer become emaciated, display abnormal behavior, lose control of bodily functions, and die.

Where is it?

CWD has been confirmed in deer and/or elk in 21 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces, including Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming and the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. 

How is it transmitted?

Animal to animal contact. Exact routes are believed to be one or more of the following: through saliva, mucus, or contact with feces from an infected animal. The greatest risk of introduction is movement of live animals that may have the disease before any symptoms are shown. This is due to the long incubation period of the disease, which may exceed 5 years.

Can people get it?

At this time disease experts do not believe that CWD presents a risk to people or livestock. Although, the theoretical possibility must be acknowledged. To this end, the following advisory is provided to hunters hunting deer or elk from affected areas: Wear rubber gloves when field dressing carcasses; Bone out the meat from your animal; Minimize handling of brain and spinal tissues; Wash hands and tools thoroughly after field dressing; Avoid consuming brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes (Normal field dressing and boning out a carcass will remove most of these body parts); Avoid consuming the meat from any animal that tests positive for the disease; Request that your animal is processed individually, without meat from other animals being added to meat from your animal.

How do we keep CWD out of Georgia?

Our first line of defense is to halt importation of all deer species. In Georgia, it is illegal to import any member of the deer family. Next, continue to prohibit canned hunting operations. Also, continue to prohibit baiting of deer for hunting, which facilitates the transmission of wildlife disease agents by concentrating sick deer with healthy deer. Discourage management practices that result in high concentrations of deer over small areas. Examples include supplemental feeding, baiting of deer, and lack of adequate doe harvest.

What happens if CWD gets into a deer herd?

The abnormal protein is quite stable and may remain a threat in the soil for years. The only management possibility is complete depopulation of deer in the affected area. This step is underway in parts of Colorado, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.

What can I do?

Hunters should report all violations of Georgia Game and Fish laws by calling 800-241-4113.

CWD is a fatal neurological disease found in deer and elk. It is caused by infectious proteins, called prions. Georgia hunters and DNR need to do everything possible to keep this disease out of Georgia.