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DHW, Fish and Game officials urge caution after Chronic Wasting Disease found in Idaho deer

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and Idaho Fish and Game are encouraging hunters to take precautions when handling deer, elk or moose due to recent detection of Chronic Wasting Disease. Fish and Game announced the first detection of Chronic Wasting Disease in Idaho in two mule deer taken by hunters during October. 

CWD is a fatal disease caused by a prion, a type of infectious protein, that affects the nervous system of deer, elk, reindeer, and moose. The prion protein is primarily in certain tissues in the animal, including eye, brain, spinal cord, and lymph nodes. Animals may not appear ill early in the infection.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been no reports of CWD infection in people. However, in the interest of safety, public health officials encourage Idaho residents to follow these precautions and recommendations:

Idaho Health and Welfare and Fish and Game provide these guidelines for hunters: 

  • Do not shoot, handle, or eat tissue from any animal that appears sick; contact the Fish and Game if you see or have harvested an animal that appeared sick.
  • During field dressing, use rubber or latex gloves and minimize handling of brain, spinal cord, eyes, or lymph nodes; use equipment solely dedicated for dressing game (avoid using household knives or utensils); and always wash hands and utensils thoroughly after dressing and processing game meat.
  • Bone out the carcass to remove organs most likely to contain prions.
  • Contact any Idaho Fish and Game regional office for CWD testing, especially if you harvested an animal from an area where CWD has been found. Wait for test results before eating the meat.
  • Request your animal be processed individually to avoid mixing its meat with other animals.
  • Avoid eating any tissue harvested from an animal that is positive for CWD.

CWD has been found in free-ranging and captive deer, moose, and elk populations in about half of all U.S. states, including Montana, Wyoming, and Utah, as well as four Canadian provinces. U.S Geological Survey maintains a map of North America where CWD is present

For questions about CWD, visit the CDC website below or contact DHW’s Epidemiology Section at 208-334-5939 or your local public health district. For questions about hunting guidance and carcass management, contact Fish and Game's Wildlife health Lab at 208-939-9171.

For more information

CDC CWD: https://www.cdc.gov/prions/cwd/prevention.html

Fish and Game's CWD webpage: https://idfg.idaho.gov/cwd

Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy: CWD FAQs: https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cwd/faqs

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. Learn more at healthandwelfare.idaho.gov.