Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a transmissible, always fatal, neurological disease that affects deer and other cervids such as elk, moose and reindeer/caribou. CWD was detected in North Carolina in March 2022. In response, CWD Surveillance Areas and special regulations were initiated. Visit our CWD page for more information.
Hemorrhagic Disease is the most important infectious disease of white-tailed deer, and outbreaks occur almost every year in the Southeast. It is caused by either of two closely related viruses, epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) virus or bluetongue virus. Because disease features produced by these viruses are indistinguishable, a general term, hemorrhagic disease, often is used when the specific virus responsible is unknown. Because EHD and bluetongue viruses are transmitted by biting flies, hemorrhagic disease is seasonal and occurs in late summer and early fall.
Hemorrhagic Disease Flyer (PDF)
Hemorrhagic Disease Report for District 3, 2014 (PDF)
Hemorrhagic Disease 2012 (PDF)
Hemorrhagic Disease Presentation Video
Southeastern Wildlife Disease Study Information on Hemorrhagic Disease of Whitetail Deer (PDF)
West Nile virus is an infectious disease of birds that can also infect humans. The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. According to the North Carolina Division of Public Health, West Nile virus may cause flu-like symptoms in humans, such as headache, swollen glands and muscle aches, as well as a rash. Usually West Nile virus only causes mild disease in humans, but in rare cases the virus may cause encephalitis and even death. Elderly people and those with compromised immune systems are most likely to be severely affected by West Nile virus.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus, that causes COVID-19 in humans, has been detected in wild white-tailed deer inIowa and Ohio. Some states began testing live deer following initial work by the US Department of Agriculture that confirmed the susceptibility of captive deer to the virus and still other research that detected antibodies to the virus in wild deer in Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania. So far, COVID testing in wild deer has been limited to only a few states, but increased testing is occurring locally and nationally.
COVID-19 Precautions for Handling and Processing Deer (PDF) December 2021
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) disease in cervids (members of the deer family); characterized by the accumulation of prions in brain cells that eventually burst, leaving microscopic empty spaces in the brain matter or a "spongy" appearance. Related diseases include: scrapie in sheep and goats; bovine spongiform encephalopathy (also known as “mad cow”) in cattle; transmissible mink encephalopathy; and Creautzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.
The source of the disease is an abnormal form of a prion, which is a protein, found in the central nervous system and lymphoid tissue. When the disease prions accumulate in the brains of infected animals, it often causes behavior changes such as decreased interactions with other animals, listlessness, lowering of the head, a blank facial expression, and walking in set patterns (see “What are the Signs of Chronic Wasting Disease?”). Though the exact transmission mechanism is unknown, CWD is thought to be transmitted directly through animal-to-animal contact as well as indirectly through contaminated landscapes and materials. It can take over 16 months after infection for an afflicted animal to develop clinical symptoms of the disease. Once they do, the infected animals become emaciated and eventually die.
Other deer diseases may present with similar signs. Only a laboratory test can confirm the presence of Chronic Wasting Disease. Currently, the only USDA approved test for CWD is a microscopic examination of the brain and lymph node tissue, which must be acquired after death.
Distribution of Chronic Wasting Disease in North America
USA Southeast Region Map
USA Southwest Region Map
USA Midwest Region Map
USA West Coast Region Map
Canada CWD Map
Alberta and Saskatchewan
If you see a deer exhibiting disease symptoms, you can call your local District Biologist or the Wildlife Resources Commission Wildlife Helpline at 1-866-318-2401.
If you have harvested a deer that was showing symptoms, leave the animal at the site of the kill and call your local District Biologist or the Wildlife Resources Commission Wildlife Helpline at 1-866-318-2401.
Anyone returning or transporting a deer, elk, moose, or reindeer/caribou from any state, Canadian province, or foreign country outside of North Carolina must follow the processing and packaging regulations, which allow:
See Rules For Importation of Deer Carcasses and Carcass Parts (PDF).
If you are hunting in a state or province where Chronic Wasting Disease has been confirmed (see “Where is Chronic Wasting Disease Found?” or visit http://www.cwd-info.org/), public health and wildlife officials recommend taking the following precautions when pursuing and/or handling deer, elk or moose:
For more information,see our Processing Deer and Handling Precautions (PDF).
The World Health Organization states there is no scientific evidence verifying that CWD can infect humans. However, for optimal safety, the Wildlife Resources Commission recommends people do NOT eat:
*Normal field dressing coupled with boning out a carcass will remove most (if not all) of these body parts. Cutting away all fatty tissue will remove remaining lymph nodes.
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a contagious neurological disease affecting deer and elk. Only four species in the deer family—white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, moose, and reindeer/caribou—are currently known to be susceptible to CWD in North America. While the disease has not been found in North Carolina, the Wildlife Resources Commission has submitted 11,407 samples for testing since 1999. CWD has currently not been detected. Very specific brain and lymph node tissues are required for testing, and the USDA has only certified approximately 28 state and federal laboratories to test deer for the presence of CWD. Hunters should not shoot, handle, or consume any animal that is acting abnormally or otherwise appears to be sick. Contact your local District Biologist or the Wildlife Resources Commission Wildlife Division (919-707-0050) if such an animal is observed and they will indicate if testing is possible and what tissue is required. More information concerning CWD can be found on the CWD Alliance Web site (http://www.cwd-info.org/). This website is updated regularly and serves as the primary information resource for professional wildlife managers and the hunting public. Links to specific topics of interest are also provided below.
If you have seen or harvested a sick deer, please call your local District Biologist or the Wildlife Helpline at 1-866-318-2401.
Signs to look for:
For more information, see our Chronic Wasting Disease Fact Sheet (PDF).