With the growing media attention given to Chronic Wasting Disease, many hunters are asking if they should continue to hunt in areas
where CWD has been identified, and to eat the deer and elk they harvest from those areas.
In areas where CWD occurs, only a relatively small number of animals are infected. Even in the parts of Wyoming and Colorado where chronic wasting disease has existed for at least 30 years, an average of less than six percent of deer are infected. Infection rates in affected deer herds in Colorado vary from less than 1 percent to 13 percent. CWD is far less prevalent in elk than deer. Less than 1 percent of elk found in areas where the disease occurs in northeastern Colorado are infected.
There is currently no scientific evidence that CWD has or can spread to humans, either through contact with infected animals or by eating meat of infected animals. The Center of Disease Control has thoroughly investigated any connection between CWD and the human forms of TSEs and stated “the risk of infection with the CWD agent among hunters is extremely small, if it exists at all” and “it is extremely unlikely that CWD would be a food borne hazard.”
However, public health officials advise caution and recommend that human exposure to the CWD infectious agent be avoided as they continue to evaluate any potential health risk. Hunters are encouraged not to consume meat from animals known to be infected with CWD. In addition, hunters should take certain precautions when field dressing and processing deer or elk taken in areas where CWD is found.
Concerns over CWD shouldn’t stop you from enjoying this hunting season. State and provincial wildlife agencies are stepping up their surveillance for CWD, so be alert to their advisories and follow the recommended safety precautions.