Hunting for Disease?

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The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) hopes to test for Chronic Wasting Disease on Oct. 1. This date coincides with the start of bow hunting season for Michigan hunters.

The DNR plans to test deer for the disease, which corrodes the brains and nervous systems of some deer and elk.

The DNR says it's testing will sample deer and elk in 40 counties in Michigan over a three year period.

No CWD has been found in Michigan, but the disease has been located as close as Wisconsin.

There is no data that suggests the disease can be contracted by humans, but the DNR suggests hunters wear gloves, avoid blood contact with any game killed and cooperate with state officials asking to test dead deer and elk. Extended Web Coverage

Chronic Wasting Disease

  • To date, chronic wasting disease has been found only in members of the deer family in North America. Animals include: Rocky Mountain Elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, and black-tailed deer.

  • There is ongoing research to explore the possibility of transmission of chronic wasting disease to other species.

Clinical Signs

  • Most cases of chronic wasting disease occur in adult animals.

  • The disease is progressive and always fatal.

  • The most obvious and consistent clinical sign of chronic wasting disease is weight loss over time.

  • Behavioral changes also occur in the majority of cases, including decreased interactions with other animals.

What Causes chronic wasting disease?

  • The agent responsible for chronic wasting disease has not been completely characterized.

  • There are three main theories on the nature of the agent that causes chronic wasting disease:
    • The agent is a prion, an abnormal form of a normal protein, known as cellular prion protein, most commonly found in the central nervous system.

    • The agent is an unconventional virus.

    • The agent is a virino, or "incomplete" virus composed of nucleic acid protected by host proteins. The chronic wasting disease agent is smaller than most viral particles and does not evoke any detectable immune response or inflammatory reaction in the host animal.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture contributed to this report.