Chronic Wasting Disease


Colorado DOW info on CWD:

State of Wyoming article about CWD in its deer herds:

National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center:


Similarities between chronic wasting, mad cow diseases noted

By LEE BERGQUIST Last Updated: Oct. 8, 2002

Because of similarities between chronic wasting disease and mad cow disease, the Medical Society of Milwaukee County on Tuesday urged the state to adopt the same regulations for deer processing that the English imposed on the British beef industry.

Wed Jul 31, 1:47 PM ET
By ROBERT IMRIE, Associated Press Writer

WAUSAU, Wis. (AP) - The deaths of three outdoorsmen from brain-destroying illnesses are under investigation by medical experts who want to know whether chronic wasting disease has crossed from animals into humans, just as mad cow disease did in Europe.

The men knew one another and ate elk and deer meat at wild game feasts hosted by one of them in Wisconsin during the 1980s and '90s. All three died in the 1990s.

Investigators want to know whether the deaths were just a coincidence or whether the men contracted their diseases from the meat of infected game.

There has never been a documented case of a person contracting a brain-destroying illness from eating wild animals with chronic wasting disease.

"We are not saying it absolutely can't happen. We know that it's a mistake to say that," said Dr. Larry Schonberger, a specialist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( news - web sites) in Atlanta. "It gets a lot of people scared and it has economic consequences and everything, so we need to check it out."

In February, chronic wasting disease — an incurable, brain-destroying illness that causes deer, elk, moose and caribou to grow thin and die — was found in Wisconsin deer, marking the first time it was discovered east of the Mississippi River. It was identified in Colorado elk more than three decades ago and is now known to exist in deer or elk in eight states and Canada; thousands of animals are now being slaughtered to contain it.

Chronic wasting disease is related to mad cow disease in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease ( news - web sites) in humans. All three diseases are caused by mutant proteins called prions that make spongelike holes in the brain.

During the 1990s, scientists confirmed that people in Europe developed Creutzfeldt-Jakob from eating beef from cattle infected with mad cow disease. The finding devastated Europe's beef industry.

If elk and deer meat prove to be a similar threat, the effects would not be nearly as disastrous, in part because beef eating is far more widespread. But such a finding could raise fears of the disease spreading from wild animals to livestock and endangering the food supply.

Also, hunting where the disease is known to exist would drop off dramatically, said Steve Torbit, a National Wildlife Federation biologist.

"It may be possible hunting persists as a way to collect hides or heads and antlers," he said. "It is a rocky ride we are in for."

The Wisconsin Division of Health and the CDC are looking at autopsy results and other records regarding James Botts, Wayne Waterhouse and Roger Marten. Waterhouse, of Chetek, Wis., and Marten, of Mondovi, Wis., both 66, died in 1993. Botts, 55, of Blaine, Minn., died in 1999. Waterhouse and Marten were avid hunters; Botts fished.

Waterhouse and Botts died of what was diagnosed as Creutzfeldt-Jakob, their families said. Creutzfeldt-Jakob is always fatal and occurs in just one in a million people. Marten died of Pick's disease, a more common brain-destroying disorder, said his son, Randy.

Jeff Davis, the state epidemiologist, said four or five cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob are diagnosed in Wisconsin each year. What makes the deaths of Waterhouse, Botts and Marten worth investigating is that the men knew one another and attended game feasts that Waterhouse held at his cabin near Superior, Davis said.

Botts' widow, Judy, believes her husband's illness came from the meat he ate at the feasts. She said the gatherings were the only thing the three occasional friends had in common, other than their love of hunting or fishing.

In 1999, a World Health Organization ( news - web sites) panel concluded there was no scientific evidence that chronic wasting disease can infect humans. But it also said no part of a deer or elk believed to be infected should be eaten.

After years of suspicions, it was not until 1994 that there was enough evidence for scientists to conclude that humans could get a form of mad cow disease from beef.

Dr. G. Richard Olds, chairman of medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, said it is possible scientists could come to same conclusion about chronic wasting disease, though it could take as long as 15 years.

"I am not trying to scare people inappropriately," he said. "But we need to be honest about this situation."


$2 million more freed to fight deer disease
Lawmakers push DNR to offer tests to hunters
By DENNIS CHAPTMAN - Milwaukee Sentinel

Madison - State lawmakers released another $2 million Wednesday to bankroll Wisconsin's fight against chronic wasting disease and told wildlife officials to come up with a plan to offer affordable disease tests to hunters.

At the same time, Department of Natural Resources Secretary Darrell Bazzell warned that the agency will be back in the next few weeks looking for at least $2.9 million more to combat the lethal brain disease that threatens Wisconsin's white-tailed deer herd."We've taken every nickel and dime we could find to deal with CWD," Bazzell told the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee.

Although the panel approved the $2 million, it required the agency to come up with a proposal on how the state could provide optional tests to ease the concerns of hunters before receiving any future funding.

It did not, however, require the state to make such tests available. Bazzell questioned the need to provide such tests, noting that the state lacks the capacity to provide on-demand testing, largely because it is already planning to perform 50,000 surveillance tests statewide.

"There is no food safety test for CWD, let's be clear about that," he said.

The tests don't reveal if a deer is safe to eat, just if the causative agent is present in the specific tissue that was tested, according to the Wisconsin Interagency CWD Science and Planning Committee. For instance, a test can prove negative in brain and lymph node samples, but positive in other tissues or positive if tested a few weeks later.

"If I could give a test to everyone who wants it, I would have done it a long time ago," Bazzell added.

Robert Shull, director of the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, noted that hunters have been convinced that testing for the disease is an assurance that venison is safe, which is not the case.

"Our leaders have not followed our lead on this. They've continued to whip people into a frenzy of thinking that they need this
test," Shull said.

Shibilski pushes for test Sen. Kevin Shibilski (D-Stevens Point) called for the DNR to come up with a testing proposal, saying it could curb the fears of hunters and encourage more of them to take to the woods in next month's deer gun season.

Shibilski claimed the DNR fed a public hysteria about the disease after it was identified in February and now owes the hunting public some peace of mind.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is reviewing several rapid-screen tests, but the timetable for federal approval is uncertain.

"It's not enough to revert to a policy of, 'Don't worry, be happy,' " Shibilski said. "I really feel we're on the verge of an environmental crisis."

Shibilski said that Colorado - which has a much smaller deer herd and far fewer hunters - offers hunters a $17 unapproved disease test. Wisconsin officials have raised concerns about the reliability of unapproved tests.

"If we can't reassure the million men and women who hunt deer in Wisconsin that the venison they pursue this fall is safe, we will lose our ability to control the size of this deer herd," Shibilski said.

The state plans to test 50,000 deer, some in every county, during this fall's hunt to see if the disease has spread.

Bazzell said the DNR is telling hunters if they are uncomfortable with consuming venison to harvest and register their deer, have them safely processed and freeze the meat until those county testing results come back.

Surveillance testing for the disease is 99% certain to detect the disease if it is present in 1% of the population, Bazzell said.Cost could grow. Late last month, Bazzell estimated that fighting the disease would cost at least $12.2 million in this fiscal year - a price tag that could balloon if the disease spreads. In spring, the Legislature met in special session and approved spending $4 million to control the disease and required the DNR to report back to the Joint Finance Committee after spending the first $2 million.

The rising costs of sampling, detection and disposal of deer carcasses will require the DNR to shift another $4.6 million from other accounts to help cover its costs, Bazzell said. The agency has also received $709,745 in federal grants to help with the effort. Bazzell predicted the DNR may need another $2.9 million in the next several weeks.

In deciding to release the $2 million, lawmakers also changed the source of the funding. Officials first thought $1 million would come from the state's wildlife damage account and $1 million would come from hunting and fishing license fees.

But because deer hunting license sales are down 22% from last year, lawmakers decided to take the $1 million from the state
recycling fund, which was projected to have a $5 million surplus at the end of the fiscal year.

Wisconsin first discovered chronic wasting disease in three deer shot last fall near Mount Horeb, and since then, 28 more deer in that area have tested positive. One captive deer in Portage County has tested positive.



Stephen Vantassel is a Certified Wildlife Control Professional. He is a nationally known writer including having been an assistant editor for Wildlife Control Technology magazine, author of numerous ADC articles as well as The Wildlife Removal Handbook rev.ed and the Wildlife Damage Inspection Handbook rev. ed. Mr. Vantassel is also a vocal critic of the growing animal rights movement. He has exposed the fallacies and deceptions of the animal rights protest industry through debate, lecture and publication.


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