Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is highly contagious and forms part of the collectively known, Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSE) diseases, which also include Scrapie and BSE, (otherwise known as ‘mad cow disease’). The prions through which this disease is transmitted attack the nervous system, accumulating in the brain, spinal chord, eyes, spleen and lymph nodes of the infected animals. Transmission occurs through bodily fluids and parts such as urine, faeces, saliva and meat. This makes both the soil and any other surface that come into contact with the ground on which infected animals are present, including clothing and equipment, highly infectious.
Although the disease can incubate within deer for several years without showing symptoms, once extreme weight loss, excessive salivation, stumbling and tremors begin, the infected animal will be dead within two months. With no vaccine or cure currently available and a 100% fatality rate among those infected, the ferocity of this disease cannot be overstated. Containing CWD and avoiding transmission outside of North America and Canada, where the disease is currently confined, is of vital importance and visiting stalkers from the UK have a critical role to play in achieving this.
The transmission of CWD to the UK would have dramatic and irreversible effects to the current population of both wild and farmed deer. This would heavily impact upon stalking activities in the UK and the sale of venison. As a result of this threat and the high resistance of the disease, which can remain with its ‘host’ for as long as ten years, it is essential that all equipment and trophies are not returned to the UK. UK hunters travelling to the US are therefore advised to;
- Use equipment provided by the host estate.
- Meticulously clean any clothing or equipment that you do take;
- Leave all trophies with your hosts.