Expert warns fatal deer disease could affect humans


As of January, cases of chronic wasting disease in deer, elk and moose have been reported in Pennsylvania and at least 23 other states, as well as two provinces in Canada. Now, some researchers are concerned the fatal disease could possibly affect humans who eat contaminated meat.

“It is probable that human cases of chronic wasting disease associated with consumption of chronic wasting disease-contaminated meat will be documented in the years ahead,” Dr. Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota told Minnesota legislators last week.

“We must provide extensive and reliable and rapid chronic wasting disease prion detection tests for killed cervids before the deer are moved, processed or consumed,” Osterholm said.

Since 2012, there have been 171 positive cases of chronic wasting disease in Pennsylvania. There are now disease management areas, including one covering parts of Lancaster and Lebanon counties.

“The Game Commission recommends that anyone who harvests a deer during hunting season get their deer tested. We do provide free CWD testing within the disease management areas,” said Courtney Colley, a CWD communications specialist.

It can take 18 to 24 months for a deer to show symptoms of CWD. The Game Commission says it’s better to be cautious. It advises that hunters remove and not eat high-risk parts including the brain, tongue, tonsils, spinal cord and spleen.

“There’s a possibility. There is a potential, but to date, we have no evidence of that in humans,” Colley said.

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