Chronic Wasting Disease

Submitted by Mike Dunbar on 3/14/02. ( )

I'm new to this forum and the business in general. I heard a program this morning on Wisconsin Public Radio about CWD, so I check the archives to see what others have said on this subject. I am wondering what other taxidermists' experiences with this are in states where this disease is common. Wisconsin just acknowledged that 3 wild bucks sampled in Dane County last fall had CWD. I don't want to panic and be an alarmist, but according to the guest on the radio program, the crap is just starting to hit the fan. His name is John Stauber and he's written many alarmist type books, namely on Mad Cow Disease in England. His basic points were that:
1. Not much is known about the disease and its transmission. An extensive scientific study has never been undertaken.
2. 2 deaths identified by the CDC in the United States,(one in Utah and one in Oklahoma) were the human equivalent of CWD.
3. In places where CWD gets established, its impossible to eradicate.
4. The World Health Organization recommends that infected deer not be eaten, and the only way to know this is if the deer are tested.
5. Canada has put a moratorium on importing cervids from the U.S.
6. The disease agent is a prion, a form of primitive virus that infects the central nervous system. Which kind of makes me hesitant about removing antlers.
7. In England the public was told not to be concerned about Mad Cow Disease (a relative of CWD)for years, until people started dying from eating infected beef.
From what I know having taught Biology for 10 years, I'm looking at this as a pretty serious issue. I hope this guy is wrong and CWD amounts to nothing, but at the same time I don't feel real good about exposing my family to this through my work. Wearing gloves and disinfecting is what I've been doing, but this sounds like a pretty tough bug to stop. Wisconsin has a huge deer heard,(almost 1 million) and it probably wouldn't take very long for this thing to spread. Is anyone else concerned at all about this?

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Chronic Wasting disease

This response submitted by CUR on 3/14/02. ( )

As a biologist, I am a member of the medscape web research facility. I searched for CWD under zoonotics and zoopathogens and case histories and there is not one case of CWD in humans recorded. The condition, however has been around wildlife and domestic animals for centuries.

CWD was first isolated and titled in 1967 in the US. It is a disease of the CNS where the nerve cells are attacked and reduced to sponfiform masses. It is caused by prions, which are protein organisms of sub viral size. The state of Wyoming has done a lot of research with the CWD phenomena and have published several papers to that end. Clinical studies done by similar Encephaloses have been done in California where an individual who died from another disease showed nerve tissue damage similar to that caused by BSE, another prion induced disease. In Britian, where there was a serious BSE outbreak in the 1980's, at least fifty million humans ate the meat from sick cattle or used dairy products or handled the animals. Not one human contracted the disease, however.

The possibility of contraction, however slight may exist, but it has not been clinically proven that humans can contract the disease. In one control study with mule deer, sixty seven penned animals all contracted the disease and died, while only a few elk and none of the antelope or other species became ill. It has been recorded in sheep, pigs and other domestic stock.

The Wyoming fish and Game Department did issue a meat and game handling caution, just in case: Here it is:

From the Wyoming F&G folks:

Should hunters be concerned?

Chronic wasting disease isn't known to affect people. Scrapie, a disease related to chronic wasting disease, has existed in sheep for at least 300 years, yet there has never been a case of scrapie reported in a human being, even among people who work with sheep and the millions of people who eat lamb and mutton.
There has been concern over Great Britain's experience with "mad cow disease" and a handful of cases of human new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Those twenty-four cases resulted after a population of 50 million people was exposed to a huge outbreak of spongiform encephalopathy in British cattle. With the passing of the disease in British livestock, the likelihood of further cases of the new variant of Cruetzfeldt-Jakob disease will drop rapidly.

Even in the parts of Wyoming and Colorado where chronic wasting disease is found, less than six percent of deer are infected. In these areas and in other places where big game animals may carry different diseases, a few precautions are sensible:

1) Don't shoot an animal that is acting abnormally or looks sick.
2) Wear rubber or latex gloves when you field-dress your animal.
3) In areas where chronic wasting disease has been reported, minimize your contact with a dead deer's brain and spinal cord and wash your hands after contact.
4) Don't eat deer brains or spinal cord.
5) Bone out your deer meat and discard the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, and lymph nodes.


Prions: New germs
Since our discovery of the chemical basis of genes in the 1950s, our understanding of the chemical working of cells has exploded. But the more we discover, the more we find needs discovering.

Even though Stanley Prusiner recently won the Nobel Prize for his work on prions, the concept of a prion as a protein that can transform other proteins still has opponents in the scientific world. However, intense research with genetically engineered mice here in the U.S. and in Great Britain is proving him right.

In yeasts, prions may act as a kind of gene, passing valuable traits from one generation to another. In mammals, normal proteins of this general class are found on the membranes of nerve cells. Researchers are still working to define their role. Mice that are genetically engineered to keep from producing prions suffer from changes in the way electrical charges move through the brain. Some scientists believe that an absence of these proteins may interfere with the mouse's ability to learn. Too many of them may lead to muscle diseases.

But these problems are insignificant compared to the difficulties these proteins cause when they twist into certain forms that resist the attacks of enzymes. These molecules stick together in microscopic mats called beta sheets. As these uniquely twisted molecules contact normal protein, the normal molecules twist as well, forming a new generation of dangerous prions.

These sheets of molecules collect and eventually kill the nerve cell, leaving microscopic holes in the tissue of the brain.

About Wisconsin

This response submitted by Linda C on 3/14/02. ( )

I have become a real skeptic in the last few years concerning anything that comes from the Wisconsin DNR.(I'm not talking about the wardens in the field).The DNR is under tremendus pressure by the insurance companies to reduce the size of the deer herd.A comment from a warden recently was that until they can stop people from feeding deer,they will never be able to control the size of the herd.Now the Minnesota DNR is claiming that feeding deer is a probable cause of CWD. I'm sorry,but common sense tells me that 200 deer yarded up together are more likely to spread disease than 10 to 15 deer per feeder at a dozen households.It always pays to be cautious when handling any dead animal,but I wouldn't get panic stricken over this yet.

Chronic Wasting Disease

This response submitted by Mike Dunbar on 3/14/02. ( )

Thanks CUR and Linda C. for your feedback. I guess I am a little concernd that whitetails in Wisconsin could spread this to deer in other states as well. Your comments seem to downplay this, which is good. I hope this never becomes a serious issue and from your comments CUR that seems to be the case. Thanks.


This response submitted by Cur on 3/14/02. ( )

CWD is also recorded in Nebraska. I found no mention under the USDA bulletins about it being in the Wisconsin herd. Wyoming, the state with the highest incidence rate, estimates that only about 6% of the deer herd is infected and that number seems to remain constant.

Linda, Your Science is Weak

This response submitted by Cecil Baird on 3/14/02. ( )

No offense meant whatsoever Linda, but I'd like to be optimistic like you but I can's agree with your statement, "I'm sorry, but common sense tells me that 200 deer yarded up together are more likely to spread disease than 10 to 15 deer per feeder at a dozen households." I've done some research on this as an outdoor columnist and it only takes close contact between an infected deer and an uninfected deer. Michigan has has a lot of experience with this and will also refute your comments too. I'd rather be pestimistic and prevent CWD's spread into my area than to err on being foolhardy. We've stopped the import of pen raised animals in my state thank God.


Wisconsin's Plan

This response submitted by Len on 3/14/02. ( )

Watching the news tonight here in Wisconsin the DNR plans on having 500 deer killed in the surrounding area of where the deer tested positive. They are to be tested for the CWD to see if has spread into the local deer population. Of course, this is west of Madison where numerous animal activists are located, so it ought to be interesting to see what goes on with them.The DNR is already starting to have the deer shot as of today. The DNR hopes to control the CWD in this area.

Have CWD document will send

This response submitted by CUR on 3/14/02. ( )

I have compiled a document about CWD and prion (pronunced pree-on) research and will send to anyone interested.

One research center in Wyoming exposed 66 mule and one blacktail deer to CWD and one by one the penned animals contracted the disease and died. Other wildlife such as elk and antelope in adjacent pens were not infected.

The feeding of deer may be just a dozen at one site, but in a severe winter condition, the yarding of many deer, or having many deer attracted to a free lunch would result in increased contact with infected animals and cause spread of disease. Besides nature is cruel. A number of deer die off by plan each winter. If artificial feeding keeps too many alive for the spring forbs to feed, the die off may continue and result in catastrophe.


This response submitted by Mike on 3/15/02. ( )

On the radio program they talked about the fact that 4 years ago legislature was introduced to ban import of deer into WI, but the DNR got such an uproar from the game farmers that instead the Natural Resources Board appointed a committee to oversea the issue. Guess who they put on the committee? Game farmers. The program also gave examples of notices that were given to the DNR by western game farms that elk were being imported from herds out west to game farms in WI that came from CWD infected herds. What about people who brought back elk and deer from hunts last fall?
CUR stated in his message that 6% were infected in Wyoming, but I doubt they have the deer density we have hear, and 6% equates to about 60,000 animals.
The DNR should be all over this thing and stop it right now. If it means testing all animals at all game farms, shooting more deer for testing, and halting the feeding of deer than I'm all for it. I really don't think its worth the risks, if it is possible for this to contaminate livestock, just think of the consequences.
Linda C. I didn't what to respond to your comments on feeding and the integrity of the DNR, you wouldn't like to hear my feelings on it and I don't think it would help the situation anyway.
If anyone wants a copy of the radio show its available on cassette at 1800 747 7444 tape 314B as in Bad. Patricia Randolph even gets her words of wisdom in on this one.
Len, did I see you in Green Bay? I think you helped me put my head up on Thursday nite before the show. I was a couple deer down from you.


This response submitted by Len on 3/15/02. ( )

Hi Mike, I didn't hear the radio program, but it is interesting to learn more about CWD.I think a lot of us have taken CWD for granted as it has not affected us. Now that it is here, we start listening and paying attention to it.
I was in Green Bay and I think I did help you hang your deer head, as I also hung some others.Great show.

just a little concerned

This response submitted by bob on 3/17/02. ( )

I'm concerned about the part that says wear rubber gloves when feild dressing your kill AND we have nothng to wrry about?

I am concerned too Bob

This response submitted by Mike on 3/21/02. ( )

The reason I posted the original message is because I'm concerned. CUR has sent me a lot of information that has helped me understand this thing a little better. But, I am still concerned and I know I will be doing things a little differently next year as far as removing antler plates from skulls and handling the brain. If you want some of the info. he has sent me, e-mail me and I would be happy to forward it to you. Why take a chance by exposing yourself to this prion? CUR sent me some info. that gives recommended procedures for disabling prions. I plan to use it, better safe than sorry.

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