Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) a disease that is affecting free-range deer, elk or moose. This disease is infectious and deadly and causes holes in the brains of infected deer. Although no cases of CWD have been reported in humans, experts say that it may even affect humans one day as the disease can be spread to primates.
Estimates show that 7,000 to 15,000 animals infected with CWD are eaten each year and that number could rise by 20 percent annually, according to the Alliance for Public Wildlife.
In deer, CWD spreads through contaminated bodily fluids, tissue, drinking water and food, the CDC says.
The disease affects deer’s brains and spinal cords through abnormal prion proteins that damage normal prion proteins, the CDC says. The cells collect and eventually burst, leaving behind microscopic empty spaces in the brain matter that give it a “spongy” look, according to the North Carolina Wildlife Commission.
Symptoms, which can take over a year to develop, include: “Drastic weight loss (wasting), stumbling, lack of coordination, listlessness, drooling, excessive thirst or urination, drooping ears, lack of fear of people, and aggression.”
CWD is reported in 24 states in the US and two Canadian provinces.