Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal illness of deer , elk and moose. The disease is caused by prions (mutated proteins), which can be transmitted between animals through their saliva, urine, and potentially feces and bodily fluids. CWD has not been found in Washington's wildlife, despite having tested thousands of animals over the past 15 years. However, the disease can be brought to new locations through the movement of infected animals or animal parts such as bone, organs and bodily fluids. Once present in the environment, the prions can persist for many years and are very difficult to deactivate. CWD has been found in animals in 22 different states and provinces in North America. Please see our Frequently Asked Questions webpage for more information.
There is no scientific evidence at this time to suggest that CWD can be transmitted from deer, moose or elk to humans. However, much remains unknown about the way the disease is spread and hunters may wish to take basic precautions in dressing and handling deer, moose and elk.
This webpage was created as part of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's overall effort to educate the public about chronic wasting disease. Besides basic facts about the disease, this site includes information on continued disease testing of Washington wild deer, moose and elk and links to additional websites with information on chronic wasting disease.
Chronic wasting disease has not been found in Washington, and there currently is no scientific evidence of CWD being transmitted from animals to humans. However, hunters who wish to take additional precautions may choose to avoid consuming the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, pancreas, or lymph nodes of harvested deer and elk, since the CWD prion accumulates in these tissues. As always, WDFW advises hunters to avoid harvesting any animal that appears sick or is behaving strangely, to wear rubber gloves while field dressing game, and to thoroughly wash hands and equipment after processing carcasses. For more information on CWD and hunting, click here.