Prion Diseases

Prion diseases, or transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE), are rare diseases that affect the brains of people and animals. The most common human prion disease is Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), which affects about one in a million people worldwide every year.
Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), sometimes called “Mad Cow Disease”, is a prion disease that affects cows and has been linked to a similar disease in people known as variant CJD.
In Colorado, some cervids (a group of animals that includes deer, elk and moose) have a prion disease called Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). Unpublished research from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has shown that some monkeys that are closely related to people can get CWD from eating meat from infected deer. This means it might be possible for people to get CWD from eating meat from infected animals, but no cases of CWD in people have been found so far. Because of this, if game is harvested in a Game Management Unit (GMU) where CWD has been detected at more than 5%, hunters are encouraged to have the carcass tested for CWD before eating the meat. More information about how to get carcasses tested and where CWD has been detected can be found at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website:
Suspected CJD and other human prion diseases are reportable to public health in Colorado. If you would like to report a case of human prion disease please visit the How to Report a Disease or call the Communicable Diseases Branch at 303-692-2700.
If you have any questions about prion diseases, please call the Communicable Diseases Branch at 303-692-2700 and ask to speak to someone about prion diseases.


Resources for the public:
Chronic wasting disease resources for hunters:
    • Information about chronic wasting disease
    • Maps showing where animals with chronic wasting disease have been found in Colorado
    • Instructions for having harvested animals tested for chronic wasting disease
    • Information about safe hunting practices
    • Technical Factsheet (under “Disease Information”) has information about chronic wasting disease
Resources for health care and public health professionals: