by Larry Dablemont
I will be killing a deer or two this week to give to the Missouri Department of Conservation to check for CWD. I am looking for older deer knowing that young deer seldom have the prions. I also want bucks, because research has shown the disease is more prevalent in bucks than does. If the deer test negative, I will give the venison to a needy family. But there is still that grain of doubt as to whether or not the testing is always perfect and accurate.
I received an email this morning from a biologist friend of mine, which discusses a new study on the dreaded disease which is called by many names, Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy, is also called chronic wasting, scrapies, mad cow disease and Cruetzfeld-Jakob disease. The latter is what it is called when humans are killed by it.
The study he recommended to me will ease the fears of many. In 2005 about 200 people ate deer meat in New York at a banquet, and one of the deer was found later to have been infected with TSE prions. About 80 of those folks have been followed closely since and to date, no one has come down with that fatal disease.
It is confusing in light of what has happened recently in research reports out of Minnesota. Here’s what we know as absolute fact… They fed TSE infected deer meat to monkeys at one time and none of them were affected. This all happened in a Canadian laboratory. Then they fed them deer meat that was from prion-infected deer which they described as a different ‘strain’ of the disease and all the monkeys got the disease. Is that confusing or what.
And though all the studies on those people from New York are a relief, researchers in Minnesota tell about a group of people who died from TSE, whom they believe came down with it because they ate meat from diseased deer. A biologist working on the chronic wasting disease whom was interviewed in recent times says that out of a few more than 200 people who died from what everyone thought was Alzheimer’s disease, 31 of them had prions in their brains.
According to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, they know about more than 200 deaths from the TSE disease we call Creutzfeldt-Jakob. How did they come down with those prions in their system, did they eat infected deer meat, sheep meat, elk, caribou or perhaps beef from TSE cattle. Who can say?
You will hear again and again that there is no credible proof that no one has ever died from chronic wasting disease. As long as you hear it called that, the statement can’t be contested. Call it by another name, like TSE, and yes, many have died from it. It becomes a matter of what you name a prion disease, and now if this idea that there are different strains of it is indeed the truth, then things really get confusing.
I have studied everything about this disease I can get my hands on, and I have interviewed people who have relatives who have died from TSE of some strain or type. In my summer magazine I have the story straight from a man who says his brother killed and ate venison from a huge buck on the Kansas/Missouri border that was obviously sick, not too far from a pen-raised deer operation. He says the CDC confirmed that within a year that prions were the cause of his death. No one has ever asked him about it, but he wanted that story told, so we are going to tell it. I will guarantee you it won’t be printed anywhere else… it is too disturbing.
You can get on the Internet and read all kinds of reports on what fish and game departments think about CWD in deer. The researcher in Minnesota who says it is not a matter of ‘if’ humans contract it from deer, but ‘when’, is Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research at the University of Minnesota.
What bothers people like me is the words of one of Minnesota’s top game biologists who states that the biggest worry about this chronic wasting disease is what it might do to the future of deer hunting and therefore the economic effects, especially on state conservation departments depending on deer tag sales.
No, that is not the biggest worry. The biggest worry to me is what might happen to those who continue to eat prion-infected meat. But then, I think differently perhaps, because of all I have learned about this disease. I am not sure about what the truth is, but I think all who hunt deer, and all who eat venison given to them from any ‘’share your harvest’ program, someday know the absolute truth regardless of what it might do to someone’s idea of the economic effect. One thing I know beyond a doubt… those who insist there is nothing to worry about with consuming the meat of diseased deer will absolutely not eat venison from a chronic wasting infected deer. Don’t doubt it for a minute… they will not! My best advice is… learn all you can about transmissible spongiform encephalopathy.
Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We also have a Lightnin’ Ridge facebook site if you want to read the outdoor tidbits we place there.