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Chronic Wasting Disease


Current scientific knowledge suggests that chronic wasting disease (CWD) prions are primarily found in tissues of the central nervous system (e.g. brain and spinal cord) and lymphatic system (e.g. tonsils, lymph nodes and spleen) of CWD – infected deer and elk.  However, research has also identified other tissues with some, most likely small concentrations of the CWD prion.  These tissues include heart tissue, eye tissue, skeletal muscle tissue, saliva and blood. Given the wide rage of tissues known to have the prion it is theoretically possible, and even likely, that the prion could be present throughout an infected animal.


Currently there is no scientific evidence to date that humans can acquire a prion related illness from eating meat from a CWD infected animal.  However, there is much research to be done on the possibility that humans could acquire CWD.  Therefore until more is known about the human health risk, individuals may want to consider the theoretical possibility that a yet-to-be determined human health risk may exist before consuming CWD infected animals. To minimize exposure to prions, both the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that animals that have tested positive for CWD not be consumed by humans.


Public health officials recommend certain precautions for hunters to minimize their exposure to CWD prions.  Individuals should avoid eating any animal that is obviously ill. Hunters should avoid contact or consumption of tissues of the central nervous system or lymphatic system where CWD prions are known to accumulate.  Persons involved in field-dressing carcasses should wear gloves, bone out the meat from the animal and minimize handling of the brain and spinal cord tissues.  Individuals may choose to get their animal tested for CWD before consuming its meat.  For more information on CWD in Wyoming animals you may contact your Game and Fish representative or go to the Game and Fish website at