AUSTIN, Texas — While state officials take steps to assess the potential risks to Texas’ deer population from Chronic Wasting Disease, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is urging hunters to use common sense during the upcoming hunting season.

CWD is a fatal brain disease that can infect deer and elk that has been found in 10 states and two Canadian provinces. There is still no evidence that CWD is in Texas, according to Robert L. Cook, TPWD executive director.

Texas continues to take steps to reduce the potential risks of CWD, including the suspension of white-tailed deer and elk importation into the state earlier this year and development of a management plan to address this disease.

The Texas Animal Health Commission has established stringent entry requirements for bringing captive elk and black-tailed deer into Texas and a voluntary monitoring program for scientific deer breeders.

This fall, TPWD will implement a statewide testing program to actively look for CWD, including sampling white-tailed deer harvested during special drawing public hunts on state park lands and wildlife management areas

CWD is in the family of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. The disease is found in infected animals’ neural tissues such as brains and spinal cords, as well as eyes and lymph nodes. The TSE in domestic sheep is called scrapie, and in cattle it’s bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Similar diseases in humans include Creuzfeldt-Jacobs Disease and its new variant, kuru, and fatal familial insomnia. CWD should not be confused with BSE, scrapie or CJD.

The World Health Organization has said there is no scientific evidence CWD can infect humans. (After more than 16 years of monitoring in the affected area in Colorado, no disease has been detected in people or cattle living there.) However, the WHO also says no people or animals should consume any part of potentially CWD-infected deer or elk.

“Just use common sense,” advised Gary Graham, Ph.D., and Wildlife Division Director. “If a deer looks sick, don’t shoot it or eat it.”

Hunters are advised to wear latex gloves when field dressing game, to de-bone all meat and avoid consuming any neural tissue, such as brain or spinal cords of animals.

“If a hunter is concerned about CWD, I suggest they visit with their veterinarian,” offered Jerry Cooke, Ph.D., and TPWD game branch chief. “A vet can explain what this disease is and what it isn’t. After that, if they want to have their harvested deer tested, their veterinarian can help. The test costs about $37.”