Learn more about Chronic Wasting Disease

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a fatal infection that affects species in the deer family (cervids) such as mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, moose and caribou. 

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Signs and symptoms of CWD

CWD is caused by an abnormal protein called a prion, which can be transmitted through saliva, urine, feces, carcasses and even plants and soil. An infected animal may be contagious for months or years before appearing sick. However, symptoms may take over a year after infection to show.

Signs of infection in deer include:

  • Weight loss
  • Poor coordination
  • Stumbling and trembling

CWD and human health risk

CWD is part of a group of diseases caused by prions which include bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) – commonly known as mad cow disease – in cattle, scrapie in sheep and goats, and Creutzfeldt-Jacob syndrome in humans.

There is no direct evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans however public health experts recommend that any animal suspected or confirmed to have CWD should not be eaten as a precaution. For more information on CWD and the human health risk, visit: 

Prevention and response planning

CWD is not a naturally occurring disease, it is very difficult and costly to manage and once established, can lead to declines in cervid populations. There is no vaccine or treatment and the disease is always fatal.

Although its presence has not yet been detected in B.C., CWD has continued to spread in almost all affected jurisdictions despite mitigation and management efforts. Cases have been detected in free-ranging cervids within 50 km of the B.C. border. This significantly increases the disease risk to B.C.’s cervid populations and requires a collaborative, coordinated effort in prevention and response planning.

Preventing CWD in B.C.