It’s caused not by a virus or bacterium, but a deformed protein called a prion.
When ingested, prions force normal proteins in the animal’s body to become deformed as well. Over the course of months, prions can gradually wreck the animal’s nervous system, ultimately killing it.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the discovery of chronic wasting disease. ...
So far, there have not been any documented cases in which people got sick from eating meat from sick animals. “That doesn’t mean it won’t happen,” Dr. Zabel warned.