Chronic wasting disease found in a wild reindeer in Norway

Published 06.04.2016 | Modified 06.04.2016
Map that shows wild populations of reindeer in Norway
The dark areas show wild populations of reindeer in Norway.  Copyright: Norwegian Environment Agency

The Norwegian Veterinary Institute has notified the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (NFSA) that it has found a positive test for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Norway. The sample that tested positive came from a sick wild reindeer from the area of Sogn and Fjordane. The disease is fatal to deer, but has never infected humans through contact with animals or through the consumption of meat.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) of deer, elk and moose. To date, CWD has only been found in members of the deer family. First recognized as a clinical "wasting" syndrome in 1967 in mule deer in a wildlife research facility in northern Colorado, USA, it was identified as a TSE in 1978. CWD is typified by chronic weight loss leading to death. No relationship is known between CWD and any other TSE of animals or people.

The sick animal was discovered by chance during tagging and registration of wild reindeer carried out bye the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate.

The Norwegian Food Safety Authority considers the situation to be under control concerning food safety. Only healthy animals are slaughtered and animals going to human consumption undergo strict control prior to entering the food chain.

Wild and domesticated reindeers in Norway

Norway has a wild population of reindeer of approximately 35 000 animals. This population is divided in 23 different under populations. These populations are found in southern and central parts of Norway, as the map shows. The diseased animal came for area number 14 on the map.

Norway also has a population 250 000 domesticated reindeers. The main production is in Finnmark in the north of Norway. There is no organized exchange of live animals between the wild and the domesticated populations of reindeer. There is limited contact between livestock and domesticated reindeer. These animals are never held in the same premises.

Surveillance program for wild animals

The Norwegian Veterinary Institute established a surveillance program for moose, deer, musk and wild reindeer in 1998 in cooperation with Norwegian Environment Agency. The conclusion from the surveillance is that the health status of wild animals in Norway is good.

In this program there has been collected a number of samples from animals that has been analyzed for CWD. All samples have been negative.  

Further measures and risk assessment

The Norwegian Food Safety Authority will evaluate the need for further measures in close collaboration with the Norwegian Veterinary Institute, the Environment Agency and the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate

Further measures include both active and passive surveillance, primarily wild animals in the relevant area. Further the Norwegian Food Safety Authority will cooperate with other institutes and organizations on information to hunters, hikers and local farmers.

The Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety will be asked to conduct a risk assessment.

Contact information

Kristina Landsverk, Chief Veterinary Officer.

Did you find this article useful?