Can this disease killing deer jump to humans?

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

By Kurt Martone

NEW YORK, NY (WENY) – Chronic Wasting Disease is a potential herd-ender for deer and other antlered animals across the country. Scientists are currently wondering if the disease can be transferred to humans. A lot of questions are looming and researchers do not have the answer yet.

“There’s no evidence that it goes into humans. Some experiments have shown that it probably won’t go into humans. Other experiments have shown, that it’s potentially an area of concern. You can’t just experiment with people and feed them infected venison to see how it works,” said Kevin Hynes, a wildlife biologist for New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Chronic Wasting Disease is mostly concentrated in a deer’s brain, spinal chord, nervous tissues and eyes. Those are all parts of deers that humans usually do not eat. If someone does eat meat with C.W.D., it is likely that the disease will not pass on to other humans or animals.

“De-boned meat, which presumably, they’re gonna consume. Then, it go into this septic tank and [it is] done,” Hynes said.

Researchers recently fed venison infected with the disease to primates. Scientists did observe signs and symptoms of Chronic Wasting Disease in the animals before they died.

“It looked like they have C.W.D., [but] that study has not been published yet, so that hasn’t been peer reviewed, but that’s a little bit concerning,” Hynes said. “The great experiment currently is happening in Wisconsin, where a lot of people are eating infected venison. So over time, we’ll probably get a more definitive answer, whether it could go to people or not based on what happens.”

The C.D.C. recommends people do not eat venison off of deer that is known to have Chronic Wasting Disease. In areas where deer are suspected to have C.W.D. the C.D.C. recommends getting the deer tested before eating it.

“No, one’s quite sure what it would look like in people. We’re making some assumptions that it might look like Alzheimer’s disease or Dementia,” said Hynes.

It is unlikely that a deer taken in New York has Chronic Wasting Disease. Cornell University does offer tests for the disease if hunters are interested.


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