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Biology and Genetics - Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

A fatal neurodegenerative disease known to be contagious among four species of the deer family including deer, white-tailed deer, elk and moose.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is of increasing concern across North America. The disease has been detected in the wild as well as on farms and ranches. It was first identified as a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (see BSE) in 1978 in American herds. To date, CWD has spread to fourteen states in the US and two provinces in Canada; Alberta and Saskatchewan. The disease infects the brain causing fatal lesions. While it poses an enormous task for wildlife agencies in terms of disease management, in the US and Canada, it is not known to harm humans. There are some proactive approaches to address the risk issue of CWD including culling, increased testing, hunter education, and surveillance programs.

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Contributor: Shalu Darshan

Last reviewed: February 2nd, 2010


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