Chronic Wasting Disease

Chronic wasting disease is continuing to pop up in deer and elk populations around the Mountain West. But researchers have found one way to help prevent hunters from further spreading the neurodegenerative disease: household bleach.

Update, 10:15 a.m.: This story has been updated to reflect recent reports of wolf sightings in Jackson County and Grand County.

Last year, Eric Washburn shot and killed a mule buck in Northern Colorado. Its thick coat and massive rack of antlers convinced him of the animal’s health, so he had the meat processed and chucked it into his freezer.

A neurodegenerative illness called chronic wasting disease is spreading among deer and elk in our region. Now, researchers at Colorado State University say they’ve found a new way to study the disease -- and another indication that it might eventually become capable of sickening people.

Michael Osterholm is worried. He directs the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. He's also serving a one-year stint as a "Science Envoy for Health Security" with the State Department. And he told Minnesota lawmakers that when it comes to chronic wasting disease, we are playing with fire.

Researchers first identified chronic wasting disease way back in the 1960s. Soon after, Michael Miller got sucked into working on it.

"Yeah, sucked into it is really right," he said.

Miller is a senior wildlife veterinarian with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Back then, local wildlife scientists were studying captive mule deer at a facility in Fort Collins, Colorado. They were trying to figure out how to help mule deer in the wild survive harsh winters, but the animals kept getting sick and dying.

The question of where chronic wasting disease came from reopened in the spring of 2016.

Roy Andersen was monitoring reindeer in Norway. He’s a research technician with the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research. On a rare, sunny day, Andersen and his colleagues were doing what they often do in the spring: blasting across a snowy plateau, chasing a herd of about 500 wild reindeer.

Heather Swanson and Ryan Prioreschi monitor wildlife with the City of Boulder. They're standing in knee-high golden grass on a slope where the Rocky Mountains start slumping into the plains — the epicenter of a now-international animal epidemic. The ecologists have their binoculars out and they’re staring right at the problem.

A fawn is running circles around the rest of the herd, with the boing of a muscular slinky toy.

Chronic wasting disease is crippling deer populations in the Mountain West, around the country and in bordering Canadian provinces. It's not a bacterium or a virus or even a fungus, but caused by something called a prion, a type of protein that all mammals have in their bodies.

Zombie Deer Disease: It's A Catchy Name That Doesn't Tell The Whole Story

Feb 24, 2019

From Texas Standard:

Ever heard of bartonella henselae? It’s the bacteria behind an illness you’re probably more familiar with – cat scratch fever. What about this one: bovine spongiform encephalopathy? You may know it better as mad cow disease. As you can see, nonscientific names for certain afflictions tend to stick. But sometimes, their meanings may get lost in translation.

Senators from across the country and on both sides of the aisle have introduced a bill to tackle a problematic illness of deer, elk and moose.

It's called chronic wasting disease. Like so-called "mad cow," it’s a prion disease, meaning that it is not caused by viruses or bacteria, but instead by aberrant proteins in the nervous system.

From Texas Standard:

Chronic wasting disease, or CWD, is a contagious illness that affects animals, including deer and elk. It attacks an animal's nervous system; a deer with the disease may have difficulty moving, lose a significant amount of weight and then die. Research hasn't shown that it's a threat to humans, but it has decimated deer populations in places like Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

Wikimedia

Some hunters believe that if a deer they hunt doesn’t appear sickly, then it’s ok to eat the meat.

As Colorado Public Radio reports, however, that reasoning could be risky when dealing with deer infected with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

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A white-tailed deer that was struck by a vehicle on US Highway 87 near Dalhart has tested positive for a contagious neurological disorder, reports The Amarillo Globe-News.

According to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials, this is the first instance of a Panhandle white-tail testing positive for chronic wasting disease, and the first instance of the disease appearing in roadkill in the state of Texas.

Wikipedia

The deer population in south-central Kansas is being tested for a fatal disease.

As The Wichita Eagle reports, two deer from Stafford County tested positive for chronic wasting disease – or CWD -  a contagious disease that’s always fatal to deer, elk and moose.

Allison V. Smith

The discovery of chronic wasting disease in Texas in June has sent nervous tremors through the state, reports The Texas Tribune. It’s the second instance of the disease in Texas, and it represents a potentially serious blow to the Lone Star State’s $2.2 billion hunting industry.

Chronic Wasting Disease Found in Western Kansas Deer

Apr 13, 2015
http://jenniferajarrett.blogspot.com/2012/03/deer.html

Chronic Wasting Disease is a palpable threat to the wildlife of western Kansas; CWD is a transmissible neurological disease of deer and elk that is 100% fatal to the animal. At this point the disease has not been passed to humans or livestock; however it is related to mad cow disease and scrapie in sheep, as well as other diseases that can be fatal across the board.