By Bill Steinmetz
October 4, 2022
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission recently announced that Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was detected in a sample from a white-tailed deer harvested in Yadkin County, which is just west of Winston-Salem. This is the first case of CWD detected in North Carolina.
CWD is caused by abnormal proteins or prions, which cause brain damage and eventual death among infected cervids (deer, elk, moose, caribou). Incubation is slow and symptoms may not be obvious for over a year after infection. Primary symptoms include weight loss, lack of coordination, and drooling. Lymph node testing is required to confirm infection. Mortality is 100%.
Deer typically spread CWD through direct contact with infected animals. However, indirect contact with excretions, carcasses and contaminated soil or plants can also spread the disease. Once the prions are on the landscape, they can stay infectious for years. In addition, prions are resistant to chemical disinfection and physical deactivation.
The expectation is that CWD will slowly spread through deer populations in North Carolina and across the nation over the next several decades. In response, an effort is underway to pass the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act, which would provide the USDA with $70 million per year in CWD research funding.
Additional details about Chronic Wasting Disease, including hunting prohibitions and precautions, are available from the North Carolina Wildlife Commission. Also see their frequently asked questions for safety recommendations about eating deer meat.