Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is real. That’s a fact. Beyond that, however, this mysterious disease is rife with unknowns.
We can’t be absolutely certain that CWD-infected meat isn’t a risk to humans. To put it sensibly, that’s … unsettling for someone like me, because wild venison makes up a huge part of my protein diet. There haven’t been any documented cases linking CWD transmission to humans, and a recent study in Colorado gives us deer eaters mild reprieve. But research is new and very limited at this point.
The CDC advises against eating deer infected with CWD. The only way to know for sure if your deer is infected with CWD is to get it tested. Some states, such as Iowa, have teams of wildlife specialists on duty to gather samples from hunters at no charge. In states such as my home state of Minnesota, you can collect samples yourself and get them tested at the University of Minnesota. Typically you can get results from your deer in 2 weeks.
To get a deer tested for CWD, the most common method right now is to collect the lymph nodes from a deer that’s at least 1.5 years old. In the video above, Greg Schmitt from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources explains how to remove the lymph nodes from a whitetail for CWD testing. Admittedly, the CWD testing debate is one in itself, but as of now testing is an option for those who wish to pursue it.
My odds of being struck by lightning are known to be much higher than suffering from health issues related to CWD, but there’s something to be said about fear of the unknown—especially as it relates to stuffing my face with meat. So how will this deer hunter proceed? I’ll continue to follow CWD news and get my deer tested when possible, and should I come across an infected deer I won’t eat it. Otherwise, venison will remain a staple in my diet as I continue to dance below the darkening thunderheads.