Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a viral neurological illness that affects elk, moose, reindeer, deer, and sika deer. It was first discovered in captive mule deer in Colorado, USA, in the late 1960s. Since then, CWD has geographically spread and been found in both wild and captive cervids in places like North America, South Korea, Norway, and Finland. It causes brain degeneration, which results in loss of physiological functioning, undesirable behaviors, emaciation (thinness), and death. CWD is a deadly disease; once infected, there’s no chance of recovery or treatment.

There have been no confirmed human cases of CWD infection to date. Some non-human primates, like monkeys, may be at risk for CWD if they consume meat from infected animals or come into contact with the brain or bodily fluids of sick deer or elk, according to certain animal studies.


Depending on the disease’s stage, CWD symptoms in deer and other cervids might change. Early on, infected animals might not exhibit any overt symptoms of illness, making it challenging to identify the disease in the general populace. But if the illness worsens, these signs could become more noticeable:

  • Progressive weight loss and loss of body condition.
  • Lethargy and decreased activity.
  • Changes in behavior, including loss of fear of humans and other predators and separation from the herd.
  • Excessive salivation and thirst.
  • Difficulty walking or standing, stumbling, and lack of coordination.
  • Drooping ears, head, and lowered head carriage.
  • Repetitive behaviors, such as walking in circles, head pressing, and grinding teeth.
  • Increased susceptibility to other infections and diseases.


The diagnosis of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in deer and other cervids typically involves several different tests and procedures. These include:

  • Clinical examination
  • Histopathology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Real-Time Quaking-Induced Conversion (RT-QuIC)
  • Post-mortem examination


The primary goals of CWD management measures are to stop the disease’s spread and lessen its negative effects on the population. Among the management techniques are:

  • Monitoring and surveillance
  • Restrictions on movement
  • Culling
  • Disinfection and decontamination
  • Research and development

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