Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological disease of deer, elk, and moose. The disease is caused by an abnormal infectious protein called a prion. Prions are transmitted to uninfected deer directly through saliva, feces and urine shed by infected deer and indirectly as a result of soil contaminated with prions. The potential impacts of CWD to the white-tailed deer populations of Virginia are a serious concern. The DWR leads Virginia’s CWD surveillance and management efforts and relies on assistance from hunters, taxidermists, processors, other agencies, and diverse constituent groups to implement surveillance and management strategies.
CWD is fatal to animals and there are no treatments or vaccines.
The CDC reports that to date, there have been no reported cases of CWD infection in people. However, some animal studies suggest CWD poses a risk to certain types of non-human primates, like monkeys, that eat meat from CWD-infected animals or come in contact with brain or body fluids from infected deer or elk. The CDC says these studies raise concerns that there may also be a risk to people. Since 1997, the World Health Organization has recommended that it is important to keep the agents of all known prion diseases from entering the human food chain. www.cdc.gov/prions/cwd/index.html
Fairfax County wildlife management staff, in collaboration with park ecologists and Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, have been conducting surveillance for Chronic Wasting Disease in Fairfax County since 2019 given the likelihood that the disease would spread to our area and the implications it poses for deer conservation and management. Over the past 4 years, county staff have sampled and tested over 750 deer harvested through the Fairfax County Deer Management Program. The majority of samples were taken from hunter-harvested deer through the county’s archery program.
County staff are working in close partnership with the DWR to determine any new rules or regulatory changes that will occur, testing options for hunters in the county program and on private property, and how this detection might affect local processors, taxidermists, and Hunters for the Hungry donations.
To report a sick deer, call the DWR Wildlife Conflict Line at 1-855-571-9003 to report sick deer showing neurologic signs (loss of coordination, droopy head or ears, lack of fear of humans, excessive drooling, etc.) and extreme emaciation. Accurately document the location of the animal.