Idaho Fish and Game officials are seeking to educate the public about the differences between chronic wasting disease and epizootic hemorrhagic disease.
Both illnesses are contagious to deer and deadly. But there are some key differences.
Chronic wasting disease, or CWD, attacks the central nervous systems of deer, elk and moose. It is present in 27 states and last month was detected in Idaho for the first time.
According to an Idaho Department of Fish and Game news release, it is caused by misfolded forms of the prion protein accumulating within brain cells and eventually leading to brain damage and symptoms like excessive salivation, drooping head and ears, tremors, low body weight, no fear of humans and lack of coordination.
It has never been found to infect people. Nonetheless, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people who hunt in areas where it is present to have deer, elk or moose they kill tested before consuming the meat and to not eat the meat from infected animals. Intact lymph nodes are required for testing.
On Tuesday, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare issued a news release echoing the federal health agency’s recommendations. The state health department also recommends people wear rubber or latex gloves and minimize handling of brain, spinal cord, eyes or lymph nodes while field dressing animals that may have CWD. Animals that may have the illness should be boned out in the field. The agency also said people shouldn’t use kitchen knives and other kitchen utensils when processing animals that may have CWD and any equipment used should be thoroughly washed afterward.
More information is available at idfg.idaho.gov/cwd.
Epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD, has occurred in Idaho and other western states for years. It is frequently fatal for deer and tends to emerge during hot and dry summers and typically lasts until the first hard frost of fall. While it can affect mule deer, it is most common in whitetail deer.
An outbreak of EHD started near Kamiah this summer and spread widely to other areas, killing thousands of deer. The disease is spread by biting gnats. Symptoms include a loss of appetite, a lack of wariness, swelling of neck and head, dehydration and weakness, increased respiration rate, excessive salivation, rosy or bluish color of mouth and tongue and blood flecks may occur in the urine and feces. In severe cases, bloody diarrhea can develop.
Deer that are infected may show lameness and a tendency to avoid direct sunlight. An increase in body temperature can cause deer to seek cool places, such as in and around water.
There is no established public health risk associated with handling or eating animals infected with EHD. More information is available at bit.ly/3nKOJ8K.