There is No Evidence that CWD is Transmissible to Humans

February 25, 2019 | by National Deer Alliance

The National Deer Alliance (NDA) reminds hunters, or anyone else who consumes wild cervid (deer and elk) meat, that there remains no scientific evidence that chronic wasting disease (CWD) is transmissible to humans despite comments by some that have garnered national attention.

“Recent statements by Dr. Michael Osterholm from the University of Minnesota regarding the likelihood that human cases of CWD are probable and possibly substantial in number are speculative and sensational, and are not supported by current scientific evidence,” said Nick Pinizzotto, president and CEO of National Deer Alliance. “Mr. Osterholm’s predictions have created needless confusion in a situation that is already rife with contradictory opinions regarding CWD impacts on the conservation of wild deer and those who enjoy deer as a natural source of protein. Unfortunately, his false alarm that stoked the fires of misinformed mass media seeking ‘click bait’ opportunities.”

While it is fair to have opinions about the many concerning aspects of CWD, it is important that words are chosen wisely, and that the focus is on what is known about the disease, as opposed to speculating on what is not known. Actions taken in response to CWD must be based on the best available science. After more than 50 years of history with CWD, undoubtedly thousands, if not tens of thousands, of infected animals have been eaten, yet there remains no human case of the disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that there is no strong evidence for the occurrence of CWD in people, but it still recommends that hunters not eat deer that test positive for the disease out of an abundance of caution. NDA agrees with the guidance from CDC but reiterates that the agency does not state transmission to humans is either likely or inevitable.

 “Stating more than we know about CWD has no value, particularly when we’re dealing with wildlife like deer and elk, two species that are tightly woven into the fabric of a majority of American’s lives.  The last thing we need to do is scare people away from consuming deer meat or to worry them about the deer in their backyard and neighborhood park,” added Pinizzotto. “Further research is needed to answer the many important questions we have about CWD and how to manage it, but until science tells us more, we have to move forward armed with the best information available, and nothing more.”