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Fading Out: Aging and Beyond RSS feed

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) strikes free-ranging wildlife. What hunters should know.

"Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is an emerging infectious disease that primarily affects deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer, and moose. It belongs to a family of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs).

1. Unlike vector-borne diseases, which are transmitted by vectors like mosquitoes or ticks, CWD is not spread through vectors. Instead, it is thought to be caused by prions, abnormal proteins that lead to neurological degeneration.

2. CWD is the only TSE known to affect free-ranging wildlife. Although it does not directly impact humans, there are concerns about potential mutations and the risk of transmission to other animals or livestock

3. So, while it’s not a vector-borne disease, it remains a significant concern for wildlife health and management."

Chronic wasting disease (Wikipedia) is a highly contagious disease that develops very slowly in the lymph nodes, spinal tissue and brains of deer and similar animals like reindeer and elk. It is an emerging infectious disease that is fatal to free-ranging and captive animals in Cervidae, the deer family. CWD is one member of a family of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), and is thought to be caused by prions. CWD is the only TSE known to affect free-ranging wildlife.

Mad Deer Disease (Susan Milius, Science News, 11-26-02) "So-called chronic wasting disease strikes mule deer, white-tailed deer, and elk. It riddles the brain with tiny holes as the victim slowly withers and dies. Once found in the wild only in an area intersecting Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska, the disease appears to be spreading. In 2002 it turned up in wild herds in South Dakota, New Mexico, and Canada and jumped all the way to Wisconsin and Illinois... This disease belongs to the same class of maladies as mad cow disease, which appeared in Britain in 1986 and about a decade later, showed up in people who had eaten tainted meat.... Similar spongy-brain diseases have appeared in at least 10 animal species, so far.

What Hunters Can Do to Stop Chronic Wasting Disease (Bill Moritz and Matt Dunfee, Wildlife Management Institute, 12-15-17) Hunters are one of conservation’s greatest tool for wildlife management, and particularly so to the management of CWD. Samples collected from hunter-harvested cervids (deer elk or moose) are the key to understanding and controlling the spread of CWD. What should hunters do?
    1 (of 7). Know the status of CWD regulations where you hunt, as well as the states you will travel back through with your harvested animal, and follow them carefully. Do not move carcasses or carcass parts from one area to another. Transportation of live animals, infected harvested animals or parts of infected animals is an easy way for CWD to arrive in your neighborhood. Please check with your state fish and wildlife agency on what parts of your harvested animal you are allowed to bring back to your home.
    2.If the state you’re hunting in is testing for CWD in cervids, then you can help by submitting your harvested animals for testing. Since the odds of finding an infected animal are low, obtaining high numbers of samples is necessary to learn if the disease is present. Testing for CWD will also allow you to avoid eating infected animals. Although no linkage between CWD and human infection has been made, scientists recommend against eating CWD-positive game.
    3.Dispose of the remains of all harvested animals in a way that reduces the chance of spreading CWD. Burning or chemical treatment will not destroy the infective prions, and throwing a carcass or remains out in a back field for scavengers will only contaminate the site if the animal was CWD positive. Check with your state fish and wildlife agency on the proper method of disposal. Go here for four more tips.

What Does a Deer with CWD Look Like? (Staff, National Deer Association,10-2-19) 'Whitetails carry CWD for an average of one to two years before outward visible symptoms begin to appear. During this incubation period, they appear completely healthy to an observer like a hunter, but they are capable of spreading the disease to other deer. Only in the final “clinical” stages of the disease will deer begin to appear bony, weak or disoriented."
     Photos of deer "in the final, sickly stages of CWD has led many hunters to believe that all CWD-positive deer look extremely sick." The truth is "You cannot look at a deer, whether alive in the woods or on the ground after harvest, and tell if it has CWD. Therefore, NDA urges all hunters who will be hunting this fall in a CWD zone to submit every harvested deer to the state wildlife agency for CWD testing. Then, wait for clean results before eating venison from those deer."

Stopping the Latest Outbreak Threat: Chronic Wasting Disease (Jim Robbins, Scientific American and KFF Health News, 2-1-24) A spillover of the neurological disease to humans from deer, elk, and other animals could be devastating. Recent research shows that the barrier to a spillover into humans is less formidable than previously believed and that the prions causing the disease may be evolving to become more able to infect humans.
     “The bottom-line message is we are quite unprepared,” said Michael Osterholm, an expert in infectious disease and a leading authority on CWD.“If we saw a spillover right at the University of Minnesota now, we would be in free fall. There are no contingency plans for what to do or how to follow up.”

Transmission (CDC) Scientists believe CWD proteins (prions) likely spread between animals through body fluids like feces, saliva, blood, or urine, either through direct contact or indirectly through environmental contamination of soil, food or water. Once introduced into an area or farm, the CWD protein is contagious within deer and elk populations and can spread quickly. Experts believe CWD prions can remain in the environment for a long time, so other animals can contract CWD from the environment even after an infected deer or elk has died....
    "To date, there is no strong evidence for the occurrence of CWD in people, and it is not known if people can get infected with CWD prions. Nevertheless, these experimental studies raise the concern that CWD may pose a risk to people and suggest that it is important to prevent human exposures to CWD.
     "Additional studies are under way to identify if any prion diseases could be occurring at a higher rate in people who are at increased risk for contact with potentially CWD-infected deer or elk meat. Because of the long time it takes before any symptoms of disease appear, scientists expect the study to take many years before they will determine what the risk, if any, of CWD is to people.

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