The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is creating a committee to review how the state responds to chronic wasting disease (CWD).

Efforts to address the disease in Wisconsin date to 2010, when the Natural Resources Board created a 15-year response plan. This fall’s review will assess how the state has followed that plan and whether it needs to adjust the actions taken in Wisconsin.

Chronic wasting disease affects the nervous systems of deer, moose, elk and caribou. It is not caused by bacteria or viruses, but by misfolded proteins called prions. It can affect both wild and captive populations and is inevitably fatal to infected deer.

Data from the DNR shows a higher prevalence of the disease in southern Wisconsin, though infected deer were found in Eau Claire County during the 2020 testing season. Most Wisconsin counties have had positive tests.

While there are no known cases of CWD sickening humans, the DNR does recommend some basic steps for protection when processing deer. Those steps include use of rubber gloves and minimizing “contact with the brain, spinal cord, spleen and lymph nodes.” Meat from individual deer should be kept separate, and any equipment used to process the deer should be soaked in a 50-50 solution of bleach and water. Full recommendations are available at https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/carcass.html.

The review should be complete by early 2022, with results presented next spring.

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