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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Chronic Wasting Disease and Potential Transmission to Humans
Ermias D. Belay,* Ryan A. Maddox,* Elizabeth S. Williams,† Michael W. Miller,‡ Pierluigi Gambetti,§ and Lawrence B. Schonberger*
*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA; †University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming, USA; ‡Colorado Division of Wildlife, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA; and §Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Suggested citation for this article: Belay ED, Maddox RA, Williams ES, Miller MW, Gambetti P, Schonberger LB. Chronic wasting disease and potential transmission to humans. Emerg Infect Dis [serial on the Internet]. 2004 Jun [date cited]

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) of deer and elk is endemic in a tri-corner area of Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska, and new foci of CWD have been detected in other parts of the United States. Although detection in some areas may be related to increased surveillance, introduction of CWD due to translocation or natural migration of animals may account for some new foci of infection. Increasing spread of CWD has raised concerns about the potential for increasing human exposure to the CWD agent. The foodborne transmission of bovine spongiform encephalopathy to humans indicates that the species barrier may not completely protect humans from animal prion diseases. Conversion of human prion protein by CWD-associated prions has been demonstrated in an in vitro cell-free experiment, but limited investigations have not identified strong evidence for CWD transmission to humans. More epidemiologic and laboratory studies are needed to monitor the possibility of such transmissions.

Prevention
To minimize their risk of exposure to CWD, hunters should consult with their state wildlife agencies to identify areas where CWD occurs and take appropriate precautions when hunting in such areas. Hunters and others should avoid eating meat from deer and elk that look sick or that test positive for CWD. Hunters who harvest deer or elk from known CWD-positive areas may wish to consider having the animal tested for CWD before consuming the meat (information about testing is available from most state wildlife agencies). Persons involved in field-dressing carcasses should wear gloves, bone-out the meat from the animal, and minimize handling of the brain and spinal cord tissues.
 

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From the text above: "The foodborne transmission of bovine spongiform encephalopathy to humans indicates that the species barrier may not completely protect humans from animal prion diseases."


This very point has been articulated on these forums but has gotten little traction. It is most surely worth considering as we wrestle with CWD in Michigan and the steps taken by the authorities to implement preventative measures intended to inhibit its' spread.

To be sure, there is no reason to panic. Western states have had CWD for some years. And there is no evidence---at this time---that the species barrier has been jumped from cervids to humans.

But who, in their right mind, could not be mindful that there are many unknowns with this disease. Therefore many reasons to be prudent.
 

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If you compare CWD to other TSE's, the one that it most closely resembles, in terms of theoretical means of transmission, would be Scrapie. Scrapie is the oldest recognized form of TSE and humans have been consuming sheep infected with Scrapie for several hundred years with no instances of that form of TSE breaching the species barrier. While you can never say never, all of the available evidence says that it's highly unlikely that humans could contract vCJD from consuming CWD tainted venison. This is not meant to make light of the potential threat that it might pose, just to bring a dose of reality into the debate. You are thousands of times more likely to get E Coli and die from it, from consuming a burger at your local fast food establishment, then you would ever be from getting ill from eating CWD contaminated meat. E Coli, Salmonella, Botulism and a myriad of other food born illness's kill thousands of people very year, yet the odds are very much in your favor that you won't be afflicted by them. The associated risk does not stop very many people from enjoying a meal out at a restaurant on occasion. Taking a pragmatic approach to the potential risk associated with CWD makes more sense in the long run, then to over react and have unreasonable fears of something that has an almost zero chance of happening.
 

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I've read different DNR reps say where it is "ok to eat VHS infected fish", that "cooking meat correctly will pose no threat from a CWD infected deer" ect.. and then i read tonight an article that states that we shouldn't eat an EHD (?) infected deer. My basic policy is that I don't eat anything that looks sick. It is killed and not eaten.
 

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The poster above noted:

"But who, in their right mind, could not be mindful that there are many unknowns with this disease. Therefore many reasons to be prudent."
 
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