This has been flagged up before, but got another mention today in the latest BDS Deer Bytes. It's interesting to learn that this lurgy remains live for a long time and can be carried about on muddy footwear.
Chronic wasting disease, or „CWD‟ as it is commonly called, is the most infectious disease of its kind having devastating effects on many populations of wild and farmed deer including red deer. Once a deer develops clinical signs of CWD it always results in the death of the animal and there are no treatments or vaccines available to control the disease. At present, CWD is only found in North America and it is not known where the disease originally came from. However, despite extensive and expensive efforts to control the spread of CWD over the last 10 years it is now beyond control and has been diagnosed in many states of the US and two of Canada‟s provinces.
CWD belongs to the same family of diseases as scrapie, which affects sheep and goats, and „mad cow disease‟ which is known scientifically as bovine spongiform encephalopathy or „BSE‟ for short. This family of diseases are known collectively as „transmissible spongiform encephalopathies‟ or „TSE‟ for short. Chronic wasting disease is the most infectious disease of the TSE family and is the only one its kind which circulates in wild animals. It only affects deer and there is no evidence that it can naturally infect or cause disease in any non-deer species such as occurs with BSE.
Despite extensive surveillance in Europe there have never been any reports of cases of naturally occurring BSE, or any TSE in any species of deer, and therefore deer are considered resistant to naturally acquired BSE. Unfortunately the clinical signs of CWD are the same as those found in scientific studies in which red deer were experimentally infected by injecting them with BSE. This means that although we believe deer are resistant to naturally acquired BSE, if CWD became established in Europe we would be unable to tell the two diseases apart except by expensive laboratory tests. Testing would be necessary to protect the public from any chance, no matter how small or theoretical, of BSE infected venison entering the human food chain.
As BSE can infect people it is therefore vital that we keep CWD out of Europe. The introduction of CWD would result in devastating effects on our various deer populations and catastrophic consequences on the industries that rely on them. If CWD infected any deer in Europe, especially those in a wild population, the chances of being able to eradicate the disease would very small.
Government legislation in the UK forbids the feeding of animal derived protein to ruminants and this includes all mammalian meat and bone meal, meat meal, bone meal, hoof meal, horn meal, greaves, poultry meal, poultry offal meal, feather meal plus gelatine from ruminants.
How Can You Help Prevent Entry of this Devastating Disease to Europe?
CWD is highly infectious and the infectious agent is very resistant to both weather conditions and normal disinfectants so it can remain in the environment for a long time. Additionally, it has been shown to stick to soil particles very efficiently. The only way to inactivate the infectious agent of CWD is to soak articles in a solution of bleach that has 20,000 parts per million of active chlorine for one hour or, alternatively, 2 molar sodium hydroxide. This treatment would obviously be highly detrimental to most clothing, footwear and hunting equipment. Therefore it is essential that hunters visiting Europe from North America and Europeans returning home from hunting trips to North America do not bring contaminated or potentially contaminated articles of clothing, footwear or other hunting equipment into Europe. This is also important for non-hunters visiting affected areas in North America as their footwear, clothing and camping or fishing equipment etc. could also become contaminated and introduce the disease to Europe.
Meticulous cleaning of all adherent debris will significantly reduce the risk of introducing CWD to this country, as will restricting hunters to bringing their own rifle only rather than all their hunting equipment. However, clothing and footwear for use in Europe should be bought in Europe and any that has been used in North America should remain there and trophies would have to be soaked in bleach as stated above to ensure decontamination.
Further information on this legislation can be found at:
For more information on CWD, including the latest situation on North America you can visit:
Chronic Wasting Disease,
or for a summary go directly to
Chronic Wasting Disease