What is Chronic Wasting Disease?

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal, neurological disease of farmed and wild deer and elk. The disease has been identified in wild and captive mule deer, white-tailed deer and North American elk, and in captive black-tailed deer. CWD belongs to the family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). TSEs include a number of different diseases affecting animals or humans including bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle, scrapie in sheep and goats, and Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (CJD) in humans. Although CWD shares certain features with other TSEs, it is a distinct disease affecting only deer and elk. CWD is a progressive, fatal, degenerative disease. Clinical signs in affected animals include loss of body condition, behavioral changes, excessive salivation, increased drinking and urination, depression, and eventual death. CWD is always fatal. There is no known treatment, vaccine, or live animal test for CWD.