Chronic Wasting Disease Update

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The hunt continues as firearm deer hunting season enters its last week. And while hunters still prowl the woods, state scientists are still collecting samples from this year's harvest.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says it's in the beginning stages of their search for Chronic Wasting Disease. So far this hunting season, more than 2,400 deer have been sampled.

Only 25 percent of the results are in, but all have proven to be negative. The scare started when deer in Wisconsin were diagnosed with the disease. It attacks the brain and nervous system of deer, causing them to literally waste away.

There are still no cases reported in Michigan and no evidence has been found linking the disease to humans. 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.