Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

24 March 2017

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) What pig hunters and recreational hunters need to know.

A recent outbreak of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Norway has highlighted the importance of Biosecurity measures to prevent this disease reaching New Zealand. CWD does not affect pigs and there has never been a case of CWD in New Zealand but because of the cross over between deer hunters and pig hunters you need to read this.

The message is the same for all people that hunt in CWD affected areas, no matter what they are hunting and for Kiwis hosting hunters from those areas, whether they are here to hunt pigs or other game.

CWD is a neurodegenerative disease of both farmed and wild deer that is always fatal. Cases have been reported in most species of deer although fallow deer have not become infected from natural exposure. There is no evidence that CWD is transmissible to humans.

CWD is part of the transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy family of livestock diseases. NZ has a TSE-FREE status. CWD is the equivalent of BSE (mad cow disease) and Scrapie in sheep. All of these diseases are fatal, chronic diseases of the brain.

A local outbreak would have devastating effects on ALL aspects of deer farming, on wild animal recovery operations  (WARO) and recreational hunting. 

A confirmed case of CWD would in the first instance, require all deer on the property to be slaughtered as part of a management response and the indefinite cessation of any deer related activities. There would be buffer zones established to contain and prevent any spread. Not just talking the neighbouring property (who may be CWD free) but 100's of km's as a perimeter. There would be serious consequences for those employed in the production, processing and distrubution of deer products industries. There may also be short to long term effects on the Sheep and Beef industries as a result of NZ losing its TSE-Free status.

CWD was spread from the USA to Canada and from Canada to the Republic of Korea through the movement of infected farmed deer. In both the USA and Canada, the disease has escaped into the wild populations and has spread widely. CWD is currently present in USA, Canada, South Korea and Norway.

CWD occurs in overseas regions that are popular with hikers, skiers and trophy hunters. This means there is a risk of CWD being accidently introduced to NZ on outdoor or hunting gear. Deer body fluids, Deer body parts and infected soil (where it can remain for 20 years) can all transmit CWD, as can hunting knives and clothing. The CWD prion protein is highly resistant to disinfection.

The most important message for recreational hunters is that, all visiting hunters and NZ hunters returning from abroad, should very thoroughly clean the dirt from all footwear, hunting and camping gear used in CWD endemic areas, before bringing it back to NZ, or simply dont bring the gear back at all. Visiting hunters should be encouraged to purchase, hire or have supplied the necessary hunting equipment in NZ. They should definitely not bring scent based deer lures (many of which contain deer urine) back to NZ.