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Chronic wasting disease (cwd) causes nervous system degeneration in cervid animals (the deer family) in North America. CWD, like Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (so-called mad cow disease), belongs to a family of neurological diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). TSEs are caused and spread by abnormal proteins called prions found in the central nervous system and the immune system. Prions are transmitted much like other infectious agents such as viruses and bacteria—mostly through direct contact between infected and healthy individuals, though prions may also persist in soil. Cervids that live in highly social herds and at high population densities are most likely to catch and transmit the disease. Infected animals develop lesions on the brain, lose body mass, and display behavioral abnormalities. ...

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