Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

What is Chronic Wasting Disease?

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a chronic and fatal neurodegenerative disease that affects cervids, including mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and moose. This disease belongs to a family of disease referred to as Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs). Research suggests that TSEs are caused by an infectious, misfolded protein called a prion. Prions appear to convert normal proteins into an abnormal form that accumulates in the brain, destroying normal tissue, and eventually causing the brain to have a “spongy” appearance.

Is CWD in Montana?

Yes, CWD has been detected in multiple regions of Montana.  The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) is performing surveillance for CWD in free-ranging wildlife. Prior to November 2017, the only documented emergence of CWD in Montana was detected in a captive game facility near Philipsburg, MT in 1999. That facility was depopulated and has remained vacant.  Surveillance for CWD is ongoing. The current CWD management zones can be found on the FWP website.

Is CWD a Risk to Human Health?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are no reported cases of CWD infection in humans through consumption of infected meat. Hunters must consider many factors when determining whether to eat meat from deer and elk harvested from areas with CWD, including the level of risk they are willing to accept. In areas where CWD is known to be present, CDC recommends that hunters strongly consider having those animals tested before eating the meat.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a chronic and fatal neurodegenerative disease that affects cervids, including mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and moose. This disease belongs to a family of disease referred to as Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs). Research suggests that TSEs are caused by an infectious, misfolded protein called a prion. Prions appear to convert normal proteins into an abnormal form that accumulates in the brain, destroying normal tissue, and eventually causing the brain to have a “spongy” appearance. For more information, please call CDEpi at (406)444-0273.

Please visit FWP's website for more information on this topic.

General Resources

Healthcare Professional Resources - CWD and Human Prion Disease