Chronic wasting disease (CWD), a fatal degenerative brain disease of deer, moose and elk, has been found in a small number of deer in north central Missouri.

Since 2010, CWD has been diagnosed in 11 captive white-tailed deer at two private hunting preserves in Macon and Linn counties. Another five cases have been detected in free-ranging deer in the same area.

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), statewide testing of more than 35,000 free-ranging deer since 2002 have not turned up any other cases of CWD.

Chronic wasting disease belongs to a group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. Other TSEs include bovine spongiform encephalopathy, popularly known as “mad cow disease.” A brain-wasting disease in humans has been linked to eating BSE-infected beef, but researchers have found no evidence that CWD in deer poses a similar threat to people or livestock.

Nevertheless, veterinarians and wildlife biologists caution against consuming meat from animals that have or are suspected of having CWD. To be on the safe side, avoid eating and minimize handling of the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes of any harvested deer.

MDC has established a containment zone encompassing the two counties where CWD has been detected, Linn and Macon, as well as the adjacent counties of Adair, Chariton, Sullivan and Randolph.

Because chronic wasting disease can spread through animal-to-animal and soil-to-animal contact, MDC has restricted certain activities in the containment zone that could concentrate deer, such as using grain, salt and other materials to attract deer. MDC has also issued recommendations on processing and transporting deer harvested within the containment zone. For more information, go to