(Sheridan, Wyo.) New research suggests humans might be susceptible to chronic wasting disease, but the findings are not conclusive. They do, however, highlight the need for hunters to take precautions.
A laboratory research project led by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency detected CWD in macaque monkeys who were fed meat from CWD-infected cervids, which is a family of mammals including moose, deer, and elk.
The experiment showed that the disease can be transmitted by eating meat from infected animals, whereas it was previously thought transmission could only occur by eating or handling brain tissue from an infected animal.
However, there are no cases of humans contracting the disease through any means of transmission.
Hank Edwards, laboratory supervisor with the Wildlife Health Laboratory in Laramie, said the findings are not cause for alarm.
“To put this (research) into context, there’s no scientific evidence that chronic wasting disease will go to humans, nor have there been any cases of that,” Edwards said.
What this research does, Edwards explained, is provide more evidence that such a transmission could be possible. He pointed out that the disease was identified in Wyoming over 50 years ago and possibly was around well before that.
“I would not say this should cause anyone to panic or not go hunting,” he said.
What hunters should do, Edwards said, is take “common sense” precautions. Hunters should wear gloves when field dressing an animal, and they should freeze the animal’s quarters while they wait for the results of testing.
There are a few ways to get meat tested for CWD. Hunters can arrange to drop off the animal’s head with a Wyoming Game and Fish regional office. They will test it for free, but it can take up to three weeks.
The Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory will test the sample for $30, and results take about 10 days to arrive. They prefer the intact head with tongue, larynx, and adjacent soft tissues still attached.
The Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory can test the sample for $35 and turn it around in about five days or less. For more on their procedures, go here.
Edwards said hunters should also not try to harvest an animal that looks thin or otherwise diseased. They should contact Game and Fish to have the animal removed from the population to prevent the spread of contagions.