CWD threatens deer and most likely humans who eat them
Chronic wasting disease, the transmissible encephalopathy that affects cervine animals, has erupted in white-tailed deer in Wisconsin bringing the total of infected states to nine plus two Canadian provinces(CO,KS,MT,NE,NM,OK,SD,WI,WY,Alb,Sask).
The disease was first noticed in 1967 after deer were liberated from pens at the Foothills Wildlife Research Facility at Fort Collins, Colorado where feeding research was conducted. The prion that causes this type of disease (a transmissible encephalopathy, TSE) was incubated at deer and elk farms where the animals were confined and slaughtered for sale as meat or killed in canned hunts.
The prion, an abnormal protein responsible for the disease, has been found in saliva, urine, feces, and blood of infected animals. Penning facilitates transmission via saliva and contaminated soil. The disease can be spread by escapees or picked up by free-roaming visitors. Hunters' lures made from scents from penned animals have also been named as a means of transmission.
There is concern that domestic cows could be infected but state and federal officials say there is no evidence of this.
Officials also say there is no evidence of transmission to humans but at least three hunters under the age of 30 have died from Creuzfeldt Jakob Disease, the human prion disease. This is very suspicious because the median age for CJD is 68. The characteristic of variant CJD, the human form of BSE ("mad cow" or bovine spongeiform encephalopathy), is that it affects younger people. There are also suspicious clusters. One involves four hunters who partook of a feast that included elk killed in the west. This is of great concern because CJD normally affects only one in a million people.
Ranched deer and elk are being killed and incinerated but whether at the 2000 degree temperature needed to destroy the prion has not appeared in reports. Colorado and Wisconsin are killing wild deer as fast as they can handle the corpses.
Wildlife officials in other states are testing road kills with fingers crossed. Some of the 2300 game farms in the US harboring 110,000 animals are closing.
August 30, 2002
Chronic Wasting Disease Case Found in Minnesota
Animal-health officials confirmed Minnesota's first case of chronic wasting Disease (CWD) on Friday, 30 Aug 2002, marking the spread of the incurable illness into a 10th state.
The Civil Abolitionist
Summer 2002 v.13 no. 2