Chronic Wasting Disease

By: Erica Hurtt
By: Erica Hurtt

Illinois's deer hunting season gets under way Friday morning just before sunrise. But finding the biggest buck isn't the only thing on the minds of many stateline hunters.

A new hunting season is here, but with it, comes fears over Chronic Wasting Disease.

"It affects deer and elk. They drink a lot of water and become lethargic and listless," says Dennis Frichtl of the Illinois DNR police.

Last month roscoe was the site of Illinois’s first case of CWD. But to the north, Wisconsin has been battling an outbreak.

"I'm a meat eater and we don't know what it is so right now I will not eat it,” says Beloit hunter Kenny Howell.

A deer collection will be set up here during hunting season and at sites across Illinois where officials will push more hunters to test their harvested deer for the disease.

“The testing that we're doing, what we call surveying at the check stations is an attempt for us to make a determination as to how widespread if at all the disease is in this county,” adds Frichtl.

Residents are also warned not take the issue into their own hands and to call Natural Resource Officials if they think they see a deer effected by CWD.

Despite the threat of CWD, Illinois DNR reports that permit sales are steady.

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Chronic Wasting Disease

  • To date, chronic wasting disease has been found only in members of the deer family in North America. Animals include: Rocky Mountain Elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, and black-tailed deer.

  • There is ongoing research to explore the possibility of transmission of chronic wasting disease to other species.

Clinical Signs

  • Most cases of chronic wasting disease occur in adult animals.

  • The disease is progressive and always fatal.

  • The most obvious and consistent clinical sign of chronic wasting disease is weight loss over time.

  • Behavioral changes also occur in the majority of cases, including decreased interactions with other animals.

What Causes chronic wasting disease?

  • The agent responsible for chronic wasting disease has not been completely characterized.

  • There are three main theories on the nature of the agent that causes chronic wasting disease:
    • The agent is a prion, an abnormal form of a normal protein, known as cellular prion protein, most commonly found in the central nervous system.

    • The agent is an unconventional virus.

    • The agent is a virino, or "incomplete" virus composed of nucleic acid protected by host proteins. The chronic wasting disease agent is smaller than most viral particles and does not evoke any detectable immune response or inflammatory reaction in the host animal.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture contributed to this report.


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