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First confirmed case of Chronic Wasting Disease in Cascade County

First confirmed case of Chronic Wasting Disease in Cascade County
Posted at 6:05 PM, Dec 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-05 10:29:26-05

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks confirmed the first case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in a mule deer in hunting district 405 north of Belt; the district encompasses areas northeast of Great Falls.

CWD is a contagious neurological disease that infects deer, elk, and moose. It is always fatal, and there is no known cure, according to FWP. It was first detected in Montana’s wild herds in 2017. The disease is known to exist in other parts of north-central Montana, especially north of Highway 2, as well as in other areas of the state.

Joshua Schatz, the CWD Region 4 coordinator, explained, "It's transmitted through saliva or other physical means. The larger the herd, the more easy it would be for it to spread."

Chronic wasting disease is a slow-moving disease and almost always fatal. CWD is not a virus or bacteria, so it can not be fought off by anti-bodies.

Schatz said, "It's a protein that's been misfolded, so it is misfiled enough that it still tries to attach to receptors and the nervous system. It might attach but it's not really sending that signal it's supposed to be sending. So, after 17 months or so, there is enough of these misfolded proteins that it starts blocking too many receptors. That's when the nervous system is not really functioning."

The side effects overlap with other diseases, Schatz said: "Just visually seeing it, there's not for sure a way to tell which is why we have hunters bring us samples."

CWD is not known to infect humans. However, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommends that people not eat meat from infected animals and have their harvested animals tested before eating them if they were taken from an area where CWD is known to exist. Click here for more information about CWD.