Chronic wasting disease: how to spot and report the disease
How to spot chronic wasting disease (CWD), what to do if you suspect it and measures to prevent its spread.
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a highly contagious and fatal transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) disease that affects deer. It has had devastating effects on many populations of wild and farmed deer in the USA and Canada.
It is not known to affect humans.
There is no evidence of TSEs in deer in the UK but if it were to become established in the wild deer population it would have major consequences for the UK deer industry.
Chronic wasting disease is a notifiable disease. This means that if you suspect it you must tell the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) immediately. Failure to do is an offence.
How to spot CWD
In most cases of CWD there is a general change in behaviour and loss of weight over time. Deer may show a number of different clinical signs.
Changes in behaviour
- separation from other animals in the herd
- depression or blank facial expression
- lowering of the head
- difficulty in swallowing
- increased thirst and urination
- less interest in hay but continue to eat grain
- teeth grinding
- nervousness and excitement
Changes in posture and movement
- stumbling and inco-ordination
- listless and dull
- repetitive walking in set patterns
- weight loss
The disease is fatal.
You can help prevent the disease by practising strict biosecurity on your premises.
It is illegal to feed animal protein to ruminants such as sheep, goats and deer. It is also illegal to feed processed animal protein to all farmed animals, although there are exceptions.
See the guidance on TSE regulations and feed controls.
If you report suspicion of CWD, APHA vets will investigate.
They may decide to keep your animal under observation to decide whether or not it is a TSE suspect. The vet will restrict the movement of the animal from the farm and will periodically visit the animal during the observation period.
If the vet decides that your animal is a TSE suspect, the vet will restrict the movement of animal and issue a notice of intention to kill. After death, brain samples will be sent for post-mortem laboratory examination.
If these tests confirm TSE, there will be further investigations of your herd and additional disease control measures may be put in place.
You will be paid compensation for a deer which is compulsorily killed because it is suspected of being affected with a TSE. The amount paid is based on the market value of the animal at the time it was killed.
See the guidance on compensation.