National Wildlife Health Center

...advancing wildlife and ecosystem health

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)


Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a disease of the nervous system in deer and elk that results in distinctive brain lesions. It continues to be a major issue for wildlife scientists throughout the Nation, and a key focus for research at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC).

Research is concentrated on:
  1. Understanding how the disease is transmitted among elk and deer, understanding the patterns of infection, and determining how infection rates differ according to age and sex of the animal.
  2. Searching for indications of genetic resistance to CWD, and developing tools for understanding CWD epidemics.
  3. Studying the role that infected deer carcasses play in CWD transmission and how feeding and baiting may affect transmission patterns.
  4. Exploring the susceptibility of small mammals and their potential role in the transmission of CWD.

The NWHC continues to investigate CWD in Wisconsin and throughout the Nation. NWHC scientists provide general information, consultation, and assistance to state agencies. NWHC staff participate in the multi-agency CWD Science and Health Team and the Research Team, providing analyses and advice crucial to determining the distribution of the disease in and around the Midwest.

Through collaboration and research, NWHC scientists seek a better understanding of the dynamics of CWD in wild populations as it expands over different landscapes. Scientists at the NWHC are committed to the belief that collaboration with many different agencies is critical to understanding and controlling this disease.

Chronic Wasting Disease Quick Fact


CWD infects elk, white-tailed deer, and mule deer, but is not known to infect livestock or humans at the present time. No treatment is known and the disease is typically fatal.

Map of Chronic Wasting Disease in North America


North America CWD Map

For more information on Chronic Wasting Disease, call Bryan J. Richards at 608-270-2485, or Paul Slota, at 608-270-2420, USGS, National Wildlife Health Center

CWD/Prion News More CWD/Prion News...
USGS CWD Resources
CWD Factsheets [pdf]

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Page Last Modified: May 21, 2013