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.
Belonging to the family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), CWD is similar to a number of different diseases that affect both animals or humans, including bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle, scrapie in sheep and goats, and Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (CJD) in humans.
Clinical signs of this progressive, degenerative and fatal disease includes loss of body condition, behavioral changes, excessive salivation, increased drinking and urination, depression, and eventual death. At this time, there is no known treatment, vaccine, or live animal test for CWD.
CWD is a slow and progressive disease with a long incubation period. Visible symptoms of the disease for a number of years after the elk or deer become infected. Deer and elk that contract CWD exhibit changes in behavior and appearance, may include progressive weight loss, stumbling, tremors, lack of coordination, blank facial expressions, excessive salivation, loss of appetite, excessive thirst and urination, listlessness, teeth grinding, abnormal head posture, and drooping ears.