The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota announced it has launched a new online resource center dedicated to educating the public, particularly hunters; the medical and public health communities; wildlife scientists and managers; and public policymakers and elected officials about chronic wasting disease.

The disease is a prion-related transmissible spongiform encephalopathy of cervids, including deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer and moose. It has been confirmed in at least 26 U.S. states, three Canadian provinces, South Korea, Finland, Norway and Sweden, with a notable increase in the past five years.

The continued geographic spread of this disease increases the frequency of exposure to chronic wasting disease prions among cervids, humans and other animal species. Although the disease has not yet been found to cause infections in humans, numerous health agencies advise that people should not consume animals testing positive for the disease.

The resource center is part of the Center for Infection Disease Research and Policy’s Chronic Wasting Disease Response, Research and Policy Program, a national program responding to the wildlife disease crisis and its potential for animal-to-human and human-to-human transmission.

Among its many resources, the resource center has the most current information on all aspects of chronic wasting disease epidemiology, prevention, research and policy, including:

20 detailed frequently asked questions on chronic wasting disease, including what is it, what are prions and what can hunters and others do to reduce exposure to it

  • Up-to-date chronic wasting disease news from across North America and Europe
  • Summarized best chronic wasting disease management practices published by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
  • Chronic wasting disease maps from the U.S. Geological Survey
  • Chronic wasting disease information from government agencies in the United States, Canada and Europe
  • Legislative initiatives introduced in the United States to address the disease
  • Extensive links to chronic wasting disease content on websites from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, Quality Deer Management Association and others.
  • The resource center also lists the members of the Chronic Wasting Disease Response, Research and Policy Program Advisory Group, whose members include 36 national and international experts and experienced professionals representing hunter groups, prion biology, diagnostics and epidemiology, wildlife management and health and human health, the release stated.

Osterholm and a team of national and state experts in public health, wildlife diseases, prion research and laboratory diagnosis have urgently called for a comprehensive national strategy to reduce the risk for human exposure to chronic wasting disease and to limit the risk of transmission of it among wildlife, particularly cervids and domestic animals. They recommend several immediate steps that need to be taken. These steps were recently published in the journal mBio by the American Society for Microbiology.

The chronic wasting disease program and resource center are made possible with support from the University of Minnesota Office of the Vice President for Research, the Office of the Vice President for Academic Clinical Affairs and the Bentson Foundation.