Hunters Misinformed About CWD
Prions and chronic wasting disease (CWD) have ravaged deer and elk in Colorado and Wyoming since the 1960s. Now prion disease is killing moose and other unknown species as it mutates and spreads. It’s alleged by some that Colorado State University (CSU) unleashed chronic wasting disease by injecting infected human brains from the New Guinea “kuru” collection into captive deer to see if the disease would spread to other species. (This is our most recent update on chronic wasting disease. Please click here to read more.)
These sick deer are a symptom of a much bigger problem. Although there are several ways for CWD to take hold and spread, the biggest threat is being ignored. The U.S. dumps 700 million tons of infectious sewage sludge on farms, ranches, forests, parks, golf courses and school grounds every year. It’s passing prion disease from people with Alzheimer’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) to wildlife, livestock and back to humans. Chronic wasting disease is the wildlife equivalent of Alzheimer’s/CJD. Prion disease is prion disease and there is no species barrier. Sick deer, elk, moose and reindeer are further proof of the deadly and infectious nature of Alzheimer’s disease and sewage sludge (biosolids).
Prion disease was first identified in captive mule deer at CSU in 1967. Because of alleged reckless management, prion disease made it to the wild populations in 1981. Researchers recognized it as a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) in 1978. Of course, if they injected human CJD into the deer, they should have already known that the disease agent was from a transmissible family.
So far, no strong evidence of CWD transmission back to humans has been confirmed, but there is no evidence that a species barrier exists. It would be foolish to make such an assumption. If deer can get prion disease from humans, my guess is that the disease agent travels both directions. After all, prions are prions—they migrate, mutate, multiply and kill. The symptoms may vary slightly based on the species infected, but most prion diseases follow similar progressions and have similar symptoms. They all kill with ruthless efficiency.
Prions are unstoppable. All prions are deadly. A deadly prion is a deadly prion regardless of source.
Animals with CWD drool and attempt to urinate excessively. Water seems to scare them, so dehydration contributes to their collapse. Sick deer and elk ultimately become oblivious to most of the world around them. Wolves can help contain these sick animals and minimize how much land and water they contaminate before they die, but most regions of the world have declared war on wolves, despite the presence of CWD. That’s a very bad idea.
By the mid-1990s, scientists found CWD among free-ranging deer and elk in northeastern Colorado and southeastern Wyoming, where the disease is now uncontrollable. According to the following map, CWD now stretches from Canada to the Mexican border, if not beyond. The map will expand every year. Unfortunately, the impacted states are becoming more passive as the disease aggressively spreads.
In Wisconsin, for example, the number of deer being tested has declined down while the rate of infection has increased. Between 2002 (the first full year after CWD was discovered in Wisconsin) and 2006, an average of more than 25,000 deer a year were tested. Between 2007 and 2012, the average was just more than 8,000.
“Deer hunting generates more than $500 million in retail sales and over $1 billion in total impact to the state’s economy,” said Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Regional Wildlife Manager Mike Zeckmeister. “A healthy whitetail deer population is critical to the state’s economy.” Obviously, Wisconsin won’t let the truth get in the way of a healthy economy.
Meanwhile, the incidence of CWD has a tenfold increase in the past 10 years. In Iowa County, the infection rate in 2013 is approximately 50 percent. Wisconsin has more than 600,000 deer hunters who regularly harvest 300,000 to 400,000 deer annually. The state has spent $43 million trying to stop the disease. It has failed miserably for many reasons. Now, it’s likely a numbers game before people start getting the disease from the sick deer. Not only are the deer infectious, but they also are contaminating the soil and the water supply.
“All indications are that under current policy, CWD will continue to spread across the state and will increase in prevalence where it already is established,” said Dave Clausen, a veterinarian who serves on the state‘s Natural Resources Board.
In fact, the Wisconsin DNR paid nearly half a million dollars to purchase land that was previously a private deer farm. The state shut it down because its herd tested positive for CWD. DNR bought the farm to keep wild deer off the contaminated soil. Unfortunately, thanks to sick wildlife and the spread of human waste, Wisconsin would have to quarantine most of the state to isolate prion risks in soil.
To help track the risk, Wisconsin started a registry of all people known to have consumed venison from an infected deer. Today that registry consists of roughly 1,000 names.
The deadly deer and elk disease now straddles the Rocky Mountains. So far, it has been reported from Pennsylvania to Utah and from Texas to Canada. In parts of Wisconsin and Saskatchewan, the disease rate is approximately 50 percent today.
The Canadian government recently conceded that CWD is unstoppable.
In Minnesota, an unnamed disease has killed 70 percent of the moose herd over the past three years. The symptoms sound like Chronic Wasting disease, but authorities haven’t named a cause. They could be reluctant to kill their hunting economy with such an announcement. Similar outbreaks in deer and elk also have been reported in North Carolina, Nebraska and New Mexico recently.
To show the similarity between CWD and Mad Cow disease, researchers have injected healthy deer with prions from infected cattle. The deer contracted prion disease with symptoms and progression identical to the disease characteristics witnessed and expected in deer with prion disease. In other words, prions cause both diseases and the species barrier to disease transmission is a myth. Calling these diseases different names in deer, cattle and humans is masking the prion problem.
CWD can be highly transmissible within deer, elk and moose populations (reindeer in Norway now have the disease). The mode of transmission is not fully understood, but evidence supports the fact that the disease is spread through animal-to-animal contact and by exposure to prions in contaminated soil, feed and water.
In fact, sewage sludge laced with prions could be contributing to the prion outbreak among wildlife. Almost every county in Wisconsin, for example, has had biosolids dumped on public and/or private land. The state’s deer herd is being decimated by prion disease. If this hypothesis is true, prion-laced sewage poses a threat to Wisconsin’s multi-billion dollar dairy herd. Prions in sewage could trigger Mad Cow disease, which again puts prions back in the paths of people.
Hunters’ Safety Underestimated
Several so-called experts are quick to imply that it’s safe to eat deer, elk and moose that have prion disease. They don’t encourage it, but they are recklessly discounting the risks. The party line is that there is no proof of a person contracting prion disease through an infected game animal. I turn the logic around and ask them for proof that it’s safe. There is no such evidence.
People have definitely died from eating infected beef. Deadly prions have been found in the muscle tissue of deer. If the prion in a beef burger will kill you, why won’t the prion in a deer burger kill you and your family? It’s time for these state wildlife organizations to guard public health with taxpayer dollars and stop serving as the chamber of commerce.
The prion problem among wildlife has been mismanaged for years. In the opinion of this author, the problem is still being mismanaged on a grand scale. We know enough about prion dynamics to make vital changes now. We can’t afford to wait for all of the studies to be concluded because the bodies of evidence will tell the story if we wait.
Hunters should not even touch the carcass of an animal in the danger zones. If the prions from a steer can kill humans the prions from deer, elk and moose can kill humans. If prions from a contaminated surgical device can kill you, the carcass of a contaminated deer, elk or moose can kill you.
To minimize the risk of prion infection, hunters should consult with their state wildlife agencies to identify areas where CWD has been found so far and take appropriate precautions when hunting in such areas. Just because the agencies haven’t reported a case of CWD in a state or zone, doesn’t mean that it’s free of disease. Use common sense when looking at disease maps. The disease is spreading rapidly. Don’t trust anyone but yourself for your decision. There is a great deal of misinformation being pedaled about CWD.
Hunters and others should avoid eating meat from deer and elk that look sick (patchy coat, drooping head and ears) or that test positive for CWD. If the animal looks sick at all, don’t even touch it. Just walk away and let the wolves, mountain lions, coyotes, crows and worms take their course.
Hunters who harvest deer, elk or moose from known CWD-positive areas should have the animal tested for CWD before consuming the meat (information about testing is available from most state wildlife agencies). When field-dressing carcasses, wear gloves, bone-out the meat from the animal as much as possible without sawing through bone. Minimize handling and cutting of the brain and spinal cord tissues. Minimize the amount of blood that contacts you, your vehicle, and your home.
If you remove the horns, be very careful when sawing through the skull. Wear disposable gloves. Wear protective eyewear to prevent blood from splashing in your eyes. Place the head over something disposable to collect the blood and tissue when you saw through the skull (and brain tissue). Wrap the skull area at the base of the rack entirely in plastic as quickly as possible. Don’t let anyone touch the base of the horns. Put your saw in a plastic bag. Put your gloves and the cloth/paper that was placed under the head in a plastic bag and toss it immediately. Don’t let pets or kids touch anything. Don’t get blood on anything that can’t be thrown away.
Quarantine your knife, saw, clothing and anything else that came into contact with flesh, bone or body fluids until you get the test results back. Put these items in a plastic bag. If the animal tests positive for CWD, throw the entire bag away. It’s worse than keeping radioactive material in your house.
Game Processing Is A Very Risky Pathway
If you hunt in a state that has confirmed cases of CWD (or a state that borders such a state), process the meat yourself. Odds are that every game processing facility has processed at least one animal with CWD. That single animal (and there probably were many) contaminated every knife, saw, table and other surfaces and equipment permanently.
Even if the deer, elk or moose that you shot is healthy, every carcass that is processed in the wake of an infected animal is exposed to prions. It’s impossible to prove a game processing facility as clean and sterile when it comes to prions, so the risk to you and your family is much too great. Plus, you never know if you are getting back meat from the animal that you brought in or not.
Ask the game processor what they are doing to protect you and others from prions. Record the answer because there is not a good answer unless it’s: “We guarantee that we have never processed an animal with prion disease. We quarantine every carcass off site. Each carcass is wrapped in plastic and sealed before it enters quarantine. Once test results are returned negative, we transfer the carcass and proceed to process it in a way that assures that every customer receives the meat from the animal that they brought in.”
In the Midwest, many hunters and farmers like to feed the bucks protein meal to make them grow bigger antlers faster. That’s another reason that we have prion disease among deer, elk and moose. The other reason is the reckless dumping of infectious human sewage sludge on farmland and open spaces.
The problem is that much of this protein feed has been made from deer and livestock, including road kill, that are sent to the rendering plant. There is no quality control at a rendering plant and any carcass that shows up is ground up, boiled, smashed and squeezed to extract proteins. These proteins then are sold to various makers of food for pets and other animals, including deer and elk.
The same deadly protein meal has often been fed to captive deer to make them grow bigger, faster, too. That’s why the disease has ravaged game farms. In some states, both wild and captive herds have been devastated by prion disease and this protein meal has contributed to the problem.
In the U.K., they ultimately found that feeding protein meal to cattle made up of dead (sick) cattle, created Mad Cow disease. Therefore, it’s highly likely that the same cannibalistic feeding process has contributed to the “Mad Deer” epidemic in the U.S. and Canada. Along the way, we may have created “Mad Human” disease, too. Now, protein predators are changing the planet forever.
Read Our Latest Update on Chronic Wasting Disease At http://crossbowcommunications.com/wildlife-contracting-brain-disease-from-biosolids/
Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. Alzheimer’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and the prion disease epidemic is an area of special expertise. Please contact Gary Chandler to join our coalition for reform firstname.lastname@example.org.