Biological Hazards

Chronic Wasting Disease and risk of transmission to humans


Report no: 2021: 08

Published: 01.06.2021

Key message:

There is a very low risk of humans becoming ill after handling or eating meat from deer infected with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

Thus concludes a VKM risk assessment commissioned by the Norwegian Food Safety Authority.


The detection of CWD in a wild reindeer in Hardangervidda is significant, because it may mean that the disease is even more widespread than previously thought. It also raises the concern for the risk that humans may be exposed to the infectious agent, which in turn increases the likelihood of the disease being transmitted between species.

Caution is needed

The conclusion is in line with VKM's previous conclusions. It is also supported by recent research.
“Although there is a very low risk of CWD prions being transmitted from animals to humans, it is important to be careful. Therefore, human exposure to CWD must be limited as much as possible,” emphasizes Michael Tranulis. He has been the scientific leader of the project.
Therefore, it is still important to reduce the prevalence of CWD in Norwegian deer species and monitor the incidence of prion disease in humans.

Data deficiencies

VKM points out that there is a lack of reliable data on the incidence of sporadic prion diseases in humans in Norway. No systematic, national autopsy activity has been established for rapidly progressive dementias and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.


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