Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a naturally occurring disease of the brain and nervous system in deer, elk, and moose. CWD belongs to the family of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) that attacks the brain of deer and elk, producing small lesions that eventually result in death. Concerns over CWD shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the hunting season, as CWD has not been found in Delaware and has not been shown to be transmissible to humans. However, hunters field-dressing or butchering deer should take the same precautions as they might to protect against other pathogens or diseases.
The following common-sense precautionary measures are recommended for the safe handling, field-dressing and home processing of venison:
- Avoid shooting or handling a deer that appears sick.
- Wear latex or rubber gloves when field-dressing and/or butchering deer.
- Do not use household knives or utensils.
- Remove all internal organs.
- Avoid cutting through bones or the spinal column (backbone).
- Bone the deer (remove the meat from the bones and spinal column).
- If you saw off antlers or through a bone, or if you sever the spinal column with a knife, be sure to disinfect these tools prior to using them for the butchering or removal of meat.
- Remove all fat, membranes and connective tissue from the meat. Note that normal field-dressing and trimming of fat from meat will remove lymph nodes.
- Never eat a deer’s brain, eyeballs, spinal cord, spleen, or lymph nodes.
- Always wash hands and instruments thoroughly after dressing and processing game meat.
- Use a 50/50 solution of household chlorine bleach and water to disinfect tools and work surfaces. Wipe down counters and let them dry; soak knives for one hour.
If you hunt deer, elk, moose or other cervids in other states and/or Canadian provinces, particularly those in which CWD has been detected, check with the respective fish and wildlife agencies regarding special regulations or specific advice for hunters. Additional information on CWD can be found at the CWD alliance web site www.cwd-info.org.
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