Chronic wasting disease is a prion or else better known as protein infectious particle that is found in some tissues of infected animals. The disease has be found to affect deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer and moose. It has mainly been found in areas of North America, including Canada and the United States, Norway, and South Korea.
This disease is very difficult to detect because in most case it may take over a year before an infected animal develops symptoms, with some of the symptoms including drastic weight loss or wasting, stumbling, restlessness and other neurologic symptoms. Chronic wasting disease is also well known to affecting animals of all ages, with extreme cases of fatalities amongst the infected animals without ever developing the disease.
So far there is considerable ongoing research by scientist on the issue of the capability of the disease being able to be transmitted among humans, however there is no confirmed human neurologic disease linked to Chronic wasting disease at this time. In addition, there have never been any indications of human illness related to scrapie, a prion disease found in sheep. As a matter of facts, there has been exceptional isolated cases relating to ingestion of meat from cattle infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) overseas that could appear to conform to or caused by symptoms related to human deaths from a new variant of a previously identified neurologic disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a point to note is that Chronic wasting disease is fatal to animals and there are no treatments or vaccines available now.
Experimental evidence supports a theory that confirms and indicates that infected animals will be best placed in transmitting this disease through animal-to-animal contact and/or contamination of feed or water sources with saliva or bodily waste material. There is also strong experimental evidence that supports the possibility of environmental contamination factors arising from the soil through decomposition of infected deer carcasses as well as from faeces or urine from infected deer. The transmission may be enhanced when deer and elk are congregated, such as around man-made feed and water stations.
Although there is no strong indication of human infection arising out of contact with deer waste or products related to Chronic waste disease-infected deer or elk, the following disease control precautions are recommended as general prevention for multiple diseases:
- Avoid contact with animal bodily waste material and clean up animal waste from areas frequented by children.
- If there is skin contact with animal waste, wash the area with soap and water immediately.
- Do not shoot, handle or eat meat from deer and elk that look sick or are acting strangely or are found dead mostly those considered as roadkill.
- When field-dressing a deer wear latex or rubber gloves when dressing the animal or handling the meat.
- Minimize how much you handle the organs of the animal, particularly the brain or spinal cord tissues.
- Do not use household knives or other kitchen utensils for field dressing.
- Check state wildlife and public health guidance to see whether testing of animals is recommended or required. Recommendations vary by state, but information about testing is available from many state wildlife agencies.
- Strongly consider having the deer or elk tested for Chronic waste disease before you eat the meat.
- If you have your deer or elk commercially processed, consider asking that your animal be processed individually to avoid mixing meat from multiple animals.
- If your animal tests positive for Chronic waste disease, do not eat meat from that animal.
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