AFN Technical Bulletin – Chronic Wasting Disease


AFN Technical Bulletin – Chronic Wasting Disease

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, and in some cases, moose. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a disease that affects the nervous system of species in the deer family (cervids) and is fatal to these animals. 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.

As of this date, there is no scientific evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans. It is recommended, however, that an animal that has been affected with CWD or any tissue from an affected animal not be used or consumed by humans.

CWD cases are currently limited to the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. Many First Nations communities rely on hunting for both sustenance and ceremonial use that could put First Nations at greater risk of exposure to CWD. The AFN is working towards developing 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 no. 70/2010, First Nation-controlled Awareness, Training & Surveillance Program for Chronic Wasting Disease. As set out in the resolution, the AFN will work with concerned First Nations to develop and strengthen First Nation wildlife and human health programs, including those dealing with Chronic Wasting Disease.

A Quick Facts sheet is attached to this email.

AFN will provide more information on CWD as it is available and in the 2017 Winter Health Bulletin. The Health bulletin will be distributed to all First Nation communities through broadcast fax and/or mail-out.  For more information on CWD please contact:

Jeff Beaudry,
Policy Analyst
Assembly of First Nations

Quick Facts on Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD):

  • Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal nervous system disease known to naturally infect white-tailed deer, mule deer, black-tailed deer, moose and elk.
  • At this time there is no scientific evidence to suggest that CWD in deer and elk can be transmitted to humans. However, it is recommended 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 signs as the disease slowly damages their brain, which may include: excessive salivation, lack of coordination, paralysis, separation form 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 been detected elsewhere in Saskatchewan, with a few cases in Alberta.
  • CWD is transmitted directly and indirectly through environmental transmission, it should be noted that there is no evidence that CWD can be transmitted to other species outside of cervids.
  • CWD is usually confirmed by testing of tissue from the affected animal after it is dead.
  • 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.

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