CHRONIC WASTING DISEASE UPDATE
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is providing this Bulletin to all First Nations to share some important information on an environmental health issue that is affecting, deer, elk, moose, caribou, and potentially humans. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a fatal neurological disease that affects species in the deer family (cervids). Neurological disorders are diseases of the brain, spine and the nerves that connect them. In an effort to create awareness for First Nations, AFN will be developing communication materials to educate First Nations communities about CWD. Some quick facts on CWD are included on the next page of this Bulletin.
New scientific evidence suggests that CWD transmission to humans may be possible. To date however, there have been no reported human cases of CWD and further studies are being done to better understand potential risks. As the risk to humans is not yet fully understood, it is recommended that all animals harvested in areas where infection is known to occur be tested prior to consumption, and that any tissue from an infected animal not be used or consumed by humans.
CWD has spread north from the United States into Canada. Cases are currently contained to the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta, where testing is mandatory in certain areas. Voluntary testing is available in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, British Columbia, and Yukon. Information about CWD testing in each region is available through provincial and territorial government websites.
Many First Nations communities rely on hunting for food, social, and ceremonial use. This puts First Nations at increased risk of exposure to CWD. The AFN is working towards developing better resources to inform First Nations and raise awareness about CWD to assist in avoiding any potential risk, and to ensure First Nations are included in ongoing efforts to address this issue.
The AFN is mandated to engage in this work through Resolution 70/2010, First Nation-controlled Awareness, Training & Surveillance Program for Chronic Wasting Disease and Resolution 13/2017, Chronic Wasting Disease. As set out in these resolutions, the AFN will continue to work with concerned First Nations, organizations, and governments to develop and strengthen First Nation wildlife and human health programs, including those dealing with Chronic Wasting Disease.
AFN will provide more information on CWD as it is available. For more information on CWD please contact:
Benjamin Green-Stacey, [email protected]
Judith Eigenbrod, [email protected]
Quick Facts on Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD):
- Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal nervous system disease known to infect white-tailed deer, mule deer, black-tailed deer, moose, elk, and caribou.
- It is recommended that all harvested animals be submitted for testing before consumption, and that any tissue that may have come from a CWD-infected animal not be used or consumed by humans.
- Animals with CWD may show a number of different symptoms as the disease slowly damages their brain. These include: excessive thirst, salivation and urination, lack of coordination, paralysis, separation from the other animals in the herd and, weight loss.
- CWD was first detected in Canada on a Saskatchewan elk farm in 1996. Since then the disease has spread across Saskatchewan and Alberta.
- CWD is transmitted directly through contact between infected animals and indirectly through contact with contaminated surfaces and soil in the environment. CWD is confirmed by testing tissue from the affected animal after it is dead.
- No treatment is available for animals affected with CWD. No vaccine is available to prevent CWD infection in wildlife or humans.
- Currently CWD is a reportable disease under the Health of Animals Act and all cases must be reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, resulting in immediate investigation.