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What is chronic wasting disease?

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is an always-fatal, neurological illness occurring in North American cervids (members of the deer family), including white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. Since its discovery in 1967, CWD has spread geographically and increased in prevalence locally. CWD is contagious; it can be transmitted freely within and among free-ranging populations. No treatment is known and the disease is always fatal.


Chronic wasting disease is of great concern to wildlife managers. It has been detected in at least 19 states and two Canadian provinces. CWD is not known to infect livestock or humans.


CWD is transmitted directly through animal-to-animal contact, and indirectly through animals that come into contact with infected feces, urine and carcasses.


Learn more: USGS Fact Sheet on chronic wasting disease

Tags: Animals, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)