Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is an infectious, incurable disease of animals in the family cervidae (elk, deer, moose, etc.) that causes brain cells to die, ultimately leading to the death of the affected animal. Animals in the late stages of CWD are often emaciated, show erratic behavior and exhibit neurological irregularities.
There are currently no treatments or vaccines for CWD. Population control measures have not proven to be successful in limiting the spread of CWD in wild deer, thus this disease has progressed from a regional disease to a widespread disease that is found in many states across the United States. It is known as a Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE).
There are a number of different TSEs, depending on the species affected. TSEs have been attributed in domestic or captive animals such as scrapie in domestic sheep, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), Transmissible Mink Encephalopathy (TME) on mink farms, and CWD in both wild and captive deer (mule, white tailed, black tailed), elk, moose and reindeer.
CWD can be transmitted by body fluids of infected animals (urine, feces, blood and saliva). The infective agents are misfolded proteins called prions. Prions are virtually indestructible, can persist in the environment, and can transmit the disease with only tiny quantities. Chronic Wasting Disease has not currently been shown to infect humans, but other cervid diseases such as rabies, can.
The Nebraska Department of Agriculture regulates captive cervids in Nebraska. Owners of captive cervids have the option to participate in the Nebraska voluntary Herd Certification Program (HCP).
For more information on possession of captive cervids, please see the resources listed below: