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Elk And Deer Hunters Protect Yourself From Chronic Wasting Disease

May 24, 2008
If you are a deer or elk hunter you may have heard of diseases like Mad Cow Disease. People get Mad Cow Disease from eating infected cattle and beef products. Can you get anything similar by eating big game? If you hunt deer or elk there is a disease call "Chronic Wasting Disease". Chronic Wasting Disease is a member of group of transmittable brain diseases that affect elk and deer. The brains of these animals become riddled with holes and almost look like a sponge - that you may wipe and clean your S.U.V. with.

There are other similar diseases that have been around for a long time. Scrapie is a disease that affects sheep. It's been around a long time - perhaps 200 to 400 years. Sheep get Scrapie - never humans. Similarly well publicized is a disease known as "Mad Cow Disease". "Mad Cow" is obtained and spread by eating infected cattle. The disease spreads and takes a long time to appear - sometimes a decade. However it is only spread by cattle, and eating infected beef products, nothing else. For all the zillions of people who you know , or do not know , who have eaten beef , only a relatively small amount have ever come down with this disease. You have hundred of thousands of times more chances of the a airline losing your luggage on the way to your hunting trip to Canada than getting Mad Cow Disease by eating infected beef. So far it appears that the Chronic Wasting Disease found in America and Canada does not infect or transfer to people who have eaten this infected meat. It is true that any effects take up to decades to appear. Still Chronic Wasting Disease does not appear to be able to spread by eating infected meat - obtained by hunting big game in North America.

The knowledge of the appearance of Chronic Wasting Disease in big game animals first occurred when scientists discovered this Chronic Wasting Disease in a captive mule deer near Fort Collins in Colorado. This occurred as far back as 1977. Whether it was because it was now a known disease for wildlife biologists, and was there all the time before, or whether because the diseases had spread - Shortly thereafter the disease was found and appeared in mule deer at a sister research station nearby to the Fort Collins station. At the very worst in the most densely affected regions In the area known as the heart of the disease problem - rates of infection are as high as 15 % of the mule deer population and 1 to 2 % of the sparse population of elk that reside there It is true and can be determined that the big game disease of Chronic Wasting Disease is certainly on the upswing and definitely spreading. Reports as far away as Canada are now known and reported. However this seems to affect only elk and deer that are in captive game ranches and not wild animals endemic to these areas - and that hunter's dream of.

Even though no reports of people getting sick from eating tainted hunted game have been reported and as well for a longer term case study - for all the fact that Scrapie diseases in sheep had been around for 300 years and no human being has been stricken with Scrapie or a similar malady what precautions can you take to reduce and minimize any risks?

First of all do not shoot, handle or consume any animal that is acting abnormally or appears to be sick. Best to contact your state or Canadian provincial wildlife department if you se such a case. Next use latex gloves when field dressing your deer or elk. Bone out the meat from your animal. Do not saw through the brain or spinal cord.
It is best practice to minimize the handling of brain and spinal tissues. After field dressing an animal, wash your hands, saws and knifes thoroughly with strong chlorine, Javex type bleach.

All told if is best to avoid consuming the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes of harvested animals. Lastly if you do have your animal commercially processed, request that your animal is processed individually without meat from other animals being mingled with the meat from your animal.

All in all as in the sport of hunting and in protecting the health of yourself, your family and friends as well as your hunting buddies it never hurts to play it safe.
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