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From: Terry S. Singeltary Sr. (216-119-144-41.ipset24.wt.net)
Subject: Scientists watching for CWD in humansHunter deaths scrutinized despite lack of evidence elk malady can make the leap
Date: December 16, 2004 at 9:06 am PST

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Scientists watching for CWD in humansHunter deaths scrutinized despite lack of evidence elk malady can make the leap
Date: Thu, 16 Dec 2004 09:16:16 -0600
From: "Terry S. Singeltary Sr."
Reply-To: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy
To: BSE-L@LISTSERV.KALIV.UNI-KARLSRUHE.DE


##################### Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy #####################

Scientists watching for CWD in humansHunter deaths scrutinized
despite lack of evidence elk malady can make the leapBy Anne C. Mulkern
Denver Post Staff Writer

Post / RJ Sangosti
Two elk scrap in Rocky Mountain National Park. Scientists are scouring
hunter death records for signs that an elk brain malady can leap to humans.

Washington - Colorado scientists will plow through thousands of death
records looking for evidence that hunters might be at risk for the same
brain-wasting disease that kills deer and elk.

Chronic wasting disease plagues deer and elk in Colorado and Wyoming.
Are there signs it has jumped to humans?

"So far we haven't found the evidence, but is it possible? Yes, it's
possible," said Dr. Ermias Belay, medical epidemiologist at the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention, which is working with Colorado and
Wyoming.

Because of the long incubation period of similar diseases, and the small
pool of people in which to study the effects of eating infected meat,
researchers know it could be years before they know. That is why they
must stay vigilant, they said.


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Researchers are concerned because chronic wasting disease is similar in
form to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, which causes mad cow disease
in cattle. Both diseases are caused by abnormally shaped proteins that
destroy normal brain cells, eventually eating large holes in the brain.

Since mad cow can be transferred to humans, the same may be true of
chronic wasting disease. Additionally, scientists know that 70 percent
of all new or rapidly increasing diseases in humans come from animals,
from West Nile virus to mad cow to E. coli poisoning.

"Back in the '80s and '90s the British (government) went to great
lengths to say, 'Don't worry, mad cow doesn't spread to people.' They
turned out to be wrong," said John Pape, an epidemiologist with the
state health department who tracks diseases that can spread from animals
to people.

"If mad cow could make the jump, could (chronic wasting disease)?" he said.

The CDC, in Atlanta, is attacking the question with several techniques.

Using CDC grants, Colorado and Wyoming are checking hunting licenses
against a national database of deaths and their cause. Researchers will
look for hunters who died of Creutzfeldt- Jakob disease, a wasting of
the brain that occurs in about one in a million people.

Wyoming submitted 247,000 hunter names to the database; 2,500 had died
since 1996. One died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob.

State health officials knew about that person, and the death already has
been attributed to the naturally occurring type of the disease, said
Scott Seys, deputy state epidemiologist for the Wyoming health department.

CHRONIC WASTING DISEASE
Information

Click here for an
article, "Chronic Wasting Disease and Potential Transmission to Humans,"
on the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Click here for the Colorado
Division of Wildlife's CWD website.

Click here for the federal
Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service's CWD website.

Click here

for the National Wildlife Health Center's CWD wesbite.

Because of the incubation period, Wyoming, and likely Colorado, will
compare the records every year for as long as they have the funding,
Seys said.

A higher rate of the Creutzfeldt-Jakob in hunters might indicate the
need to dig further. Some people get a variant of that disease from
eating cow meat infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Mad cow spread to humans after 1 million to 1.5 million cattle became
infected over a 10- to 15-year period, Pape said. Even then, there were
only 147 human cases, though all were fatal. That shows that
Creutzfeldt-Jakob is not easily transmitted, both men said.

There are far fewer deer and elk than that, and far fewer that are
infected, Pape said. And the meat usually is removed in a way that
avoids nerve tissue. Mad cow is carried in tissue near the spine and in
the brain.

From the start of the 2002 hunting season through Dec. 8, the Colorado
Division of Wildlife tested 52,296 deer, elk and a small number of
moose, and found 651 positives for chronic wasting disease.

The number of hunters bringing in game for tests is steadily dropping,
which concerns the Division of Wildlife, said Todd Malmsbury, a member
of the chronic wasting disease team.

"One possibility is that most people don't believe there is a connection
between chronic wasting disease and human health," he said. But because
that connection cannot be ruled out, and to track the disease's spread,
the division wants hunters to have animals tested.

Belay said chronic wasting disease has been "endemic for decades" in
northeastern Colorado, southeastern Wyoming and parts of Nebraska.

The disease was discovered in a mule deer at a Fort Collins wildlife
research station in 1967. By 2002, it had spread into Wyoming, Nebraska,
South Dakota, Wisconsin and to Colorado's Western Slope. It also has
been found in Canada.

"We believe humans potentially had a chance to be exposed to the agent,"
Belay said.

In a study released in June, the CDC, Division of Wildlife and Wyoming
and Ohio academic researchers looked at 12 cases since 1997 where people
were believed to have died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The people had
been hunters or were exposed to deer or elk meat. Researchers studied
the brains of those who died.

They found no evidence linking the deaths to chronic wasting disease.
The Colorado health department has compared the number of
Creutzfeldt-Jakob cases in parts of the state where chronic wasting
disease exists to those in areas without the malady. There was no
difference between the two, Pape said.

Staff writer Anne C. Mulkern can be reached at 202-662-8907 or
amulkern@denverpost.com .

All contents Copyright 2004 The Denver Post
or other copyright holders. All rights reserved. This material may not
be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed for any commercial
purpose.

http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36~11799~2600599,00.html

TSS

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