MADISON, Wis. – With deer hunting season upon us, state officials are encouraging hunters who harvest deer in counties affected by chronic wasting disease to have the animal tested for CWD, and only consume venison from deer in which CWD is not detected. Testing options are also available in other areas of the state [PDF].

“Although this venison consumption advisory has been in place for years, we thought it was important to remind people of it as we approach this fall’s deer season,” said Rachel Klos, State Public Health Veterinarian of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS). “The safest approach is to only consume venison from healthy-appearing deer with test results indicating that CWD was not detected. This is consistent with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.”

Sample Caption and Alt Text -  - Photo credit: DNR
Three agencies joined together to encourage hunters who harvest deer in counties affected by CWD to have the animal tested for CWD – Photo credit: DNR

CWD is a fatal disease that affects the nervous system of deer, elk moose, and caribou. An abnormal protein called a prion causes the disease, which is not destroyed by cooking temperatures. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been testing samples from hunter-harvested deer to monitor the disease in the wild deer herd since it was first detected in 2002. The testing methods conducted on the samples provide results about whether CWD was detected or not detected at the time of sampling.

“Although a not detected test result does not guarantee the tested animal is not infected with CWD, it does make it less likely,” said Tami Ryan, DNR Acting Director for the Bureau of Wildlife Management. “Testing also allows hunters to make informed decisions about the consumption advisory.”

To find a location nearby to submit samples free of charge, visit the Find CWD Sampling, Registration and Deer Disposal Sites page of the DNR website. Test results are usually available from the DNR within two weeks.

“Although CWD has never been shown to infect people, some unpublished laboratory research in macaque monkeys has raised concerns about the potential for CWD to cross the ‘species barrier,’ Klos said. “For this reason, we want to keep the public updated and encourage deer hunters to make informed decisions.”

Besides having their deer tested, hunters who have their deer commercially processed should consider asking whether the processor mixes meat from untested animals into the products it returns to the customer. While processors typically return cuts like steaks and chops from the customer’s deer, other products like sausage and jerky may contain trim meat from other deer which may or may not have been tested for CWD.

“Processors can process all deer with ‘CWD not detected’ lab results together using cleaned and sanitized equipment to avoid the possibility that trim meat from non-tested deer will end up being carried over in products returned to customers,” said Dr. Steve Ingham, Administrator for the Division of Food and Recreational Safety at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). “By doing this, processors can assure customers that the products made from co-mingled trim are derived only from deer which have ‘CWD not detected’ results.”

Archery and crossbow hunting season for deer begins September 14. For hunters who process their own deer, instructions on safe processing are available online at the DNR and DATCP websites.

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