Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological disease found in deer and elk. The disease attacks the brain, causing the animals to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior, lose bodily functions and die.
There is no known relationship between CWD and human health problems; however, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Colorado Division of Wildlife advise hunters to take precautions when handling deer or elk carcasses.
Deer and elk harvested in Northwest Colorado can be tested for CWD by bringing the head of the animal to a testing site to have a small amount of tissue removed and sent to a laboratory.
Results of the test are usually posted on the Division of Wildlife Web site within one week during the slower, early seasons, or within 10 days to two weeks for the busy seasons.
Hunters who harvest a trophy bull or buck that they wish to have mounted, can still have the animal tested, but it will take slightly longer to remove the tissue for testing.
A tag on Colorado hunting licenses will accompany the tissue to be tested and will allow the hunter to locate results of the test on the DOW Web site or by phone.
Any animal testing positive for chronic wasting disease will result in the hunter being reimbursed for processing costs of the animal and a replacement license can be applied for through the Division of Wildlife.
The Division of Wildlife encourages hunters to wait for results from the test before consuming animals.
Although the disease is not transmittable to humans, the DOW offers the following precautions for handling infected animals:
- Wear rubber gloves when field dressing and processing animals.
- Bone out the meat from your animal.
- Minimize the handling of brain and spinal tissues, and wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field-dressing.
- Wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field dressing is completed.
- Avoid consuming brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils, pancreas and lymph nodes of harvested animals. Normal field dressing, coupled with boning out a carcass, will remove most, if not all, of these body parts. Cutting away all fatty tissue will remove remaining lymph nodes.
- Do not consume meat from animals known to be infected with CWD.
- Knives, saws and cutting table surfaces can be disinfected by soaking in a solution of 50 percent unscented household bleach and 50 percent water for an hour. Afterward, allow them to air dry.
For more information, visit the DOW Web site at http://wildlife.state.co.us/CWD/index.asp.