Venison CWD FAQ

Customers Want to Know about CWD. . .

This section is being presented as informational and we do encourage you to also view the Wisconsin DNR and USDA website links for updated materials & reports pertaining to CWD as it becomes available.

What is Chronic Wasting Disease?

CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease) is a neurological brain disease of deer and elk. It belongs to the family of diseases known as transmissable spongiform encephalopathies (TSE's) or prion diseases. Though it shares certain features with other TSE's like bovine spongiform encephalopathy ("Mad Cow Disease") or scrapie in sheep, it is a distinct disease apparently affecting only deer and related species. CWD has occurred in wild deer and elk originally thought to have been primarily in northeastern Colorado, and adjacent parts of Wyoming and Nebraska. CWD has also been found on elk farms in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Saskatchewan. Reports of CWD pertaining to the western states became a real concern as far back as the 1960's and initial reports by state have been updated as such since that time.

What are the signs & symptoms of CWD?

CWD attacks the brain of infected deer and elk, causing the animals to become emaciated (to become thin), display abnormal behavior, lose bodily functions and eventually die. Signs identified in captive deer include excessive salivation, loss of appetite, progressive weight loss, excessive thirst and urination, listlessness, teeth grinding, holding the head in a lowered position, and drooping ears. Many of these signs can also be caused by other diseases known in Wisconsin deer, such as Cranial Abscessation Syndrome, a bacterial disease of the brain, or by simple malnutrition. CWD is a slowly progressive disease and in general, signs are usually not seen until the animal is 18 months of age or older. Also noted is the condition of pregnant females infected with the disease to appear outwardly healthy until actual testing proved otherwise.

How is CWD transmitted?

The mode of transmission among the deer population is not clearly or completely understood at this time. It has been suggested that the disease may be passed between animals in a herd and also transmitted from mother to offspring. The disease causing prion in not easily killed by heat or disinfection, as in environmental factors, so it seems that transmission from a given contaminated environment may also be possible.

How is CWD Diagnosed?

Samples of the brain are collected from dead deer and/or hunter-harvested deer and are microscopically examined by use of special stains to assist in identifying the CWD prion. A research team in Colorado has recently developed the first CWD test for live animals, which is based on the collections of tonsil samples for examination under a microscope. The test has not been conclusive in elk, but appears to work well in deer testing.

Can CWD be transmitted to Humans?

When all available information pertaining to CWD was presented to the World Health Organization experts it was concluded that there is no sustainable scientific evidence that supports the fact that CWD can infect humans. Although CWD is similar to the human TSE disease called Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, the two diseases have not been linked in the way that the variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in people has been linked to consumption of products from cattle with the bovine spongiform encephalopathy disease commonly called "Mad Cow Disease".

Is it safe to eat venison products from Wisconsin?

As stated, the World Health Organization concluded that there is NO proven scientific evidence at this time that supports the idea of transmission of the disease, CWD, through human consumption of meat from an infected animal.

The prion that causes CWD is suspected of accumulating only in particular parts of the infected animal's body. . .the internal organs consisting particularly of the brain, spinal cord, eyes, lymph nodes, spleen and tonsils. Health officials do, however, advise that no part of any animal KNOWN to be infected with the disease should be consumed by humans or other animals.

What precautions can be taken?

Health officials have outlined a list of simple precautions for all hunters when field dressing an animal, especially those in areas where CWD has been reported:

  • Wear rubber gloves when field dressing carcasses.
  • Bone out the meat from your animal, taking extra precaution to stay away from cutting through the spinal cord and any bone structure in general; also advised, is the precaution of cutting through the head cavity to remove the horns. (prions are suggested to accumulate in the brain cavity).
  • Minimize the handling of brain and spinal tissues as suggest ed by previous instructions.
  • Wash hands and all instruments thoroughly after each field dressing has been completed; and sterilize and/or sanitize all with bleach solution. (Do NOT use household utensils!)
  • Avoid consumption of internal organs, especially the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, lymph nodes, and tonsils of the harvested animal. Normal field dressing combined with proper attention to the boning out of the carcass will remove essentially all of these parts.
  • If processing, inquire about minimum amounts required to process your meat individually.

It has been suggested that additional guidelines for processors will be coming out from the state and/or federal levels of the USDA and Dept. of Agriculture, but, as of this printing, no "updated" regulations or guidelines have been mandated to processors to assist in the safe processing of venison or wild game, specifically where CWD is a concern.

What should I do if I suspect CWD?

If you have observed or killed a deer that you suspect might have CWD you are advised to call the local DNR office or the DNR Wildlife Health Team as soon as possible and the DNR will make every effort to collect samples from the possibly infected deer for CWD testing.

Phone: (608) 267-6751 or (608) 221-5375.

What is being done with Wisconsin Deer Management & CWD?

The Wisconsin DNR is working with multiple state agencies and the USDA to gather as much information available about the deer population that has been positively identified with CWD in Dane County as well as maintaining a database of information from other deer tested throughout the state.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and Wisconsin Deer

We are providing a direct link to the Wisconsin DNR site in an effort to keep you informed about the latest updates & reports available concerning CWD.

The USDA and Chronic Wasting Disease

The USDA has posted quite a few informative reports and links to show what steps are being taken to help minimize the problems and concerns of CWD.

How will CWD affect Venison Processing at Bavaria Sausage, Inc.?

As of this update, Sept. 2002, the only part of our extensive Venison & Wild Game Processing to be affected is the whole carcass venison process.

Please read the following explanations thoroughly and do understand that since we are a Federally Inspected Meat Processor, we will act accordingly with state and federal regulations pertaining to the issues of CWD as they become mandated & necessary.

For the upcoming seasons, and until further notice, we will ONLY be accepting CLEAN, TOTALLY DE-BONED VENISON and we will NOT be accepting whole deer for processing or de-boning. This is a practical policy for the safety & protection of everyone concerned.

We will NOT accept any meat brought in with bones in it. If you choose to ignore our policy this season, and we do discover bones included with your meat trimmings, we will call you and request the prompt removal of your meat from the plant.
Absolutely NO exceptions.

Our decision to proceed with the specified venison processing terms is two-fold:

  1. Research has indicated that proper field dressing and "limited carcass invasions" (no cutting of, into, or through the bones or internal organs) highly reduces the risks of CWD transmission.
  2. At this point in time, we do not have an "acceptable" means of proper disposal of the bones. The company that previously contracted out their "bone-removal" services to us, issued a document retracting their services based on the CWD concerns here in Dane County.

And if you've kept up with local public concerns & issues, you'll realize that there has been much tension over suggestions of providing designated "land-fill" areas in and around Dane County for bone & carcass disposal.

Incineration of the bones & carcass remains, another original suggestion, is portrayed as very expensive and current operations are not effective with the high demand for usage in the short time frame during the regular and additional hunting seasons. Also, testing has suggested that incineration does NOT necessarily "kill" the prions and you are still left with the question of where to "dispose of" the remaining ashes.

Public opinion definitely suggests that hunters, land owners & consumers want other options for bone and carcass disposal and at the present time there just doesn't seem to be any given solution that is practical, economical, effective or ethically acceptable.
Please also thoroughly read the general processing terms listed in each category on our website: Venison & Wild Game Processing



Page Summary: Facts about Chronic Wasting Disease. What you want to know about CWD including signs & symptoms, how it is transmitted, diagnosed and precautions to take and more.



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