Tell people that Chronic Wasting is deer with mad cow disease
To the editor: I was horrified to read in a recent Avalanche article that Chronic Wasting Disease in deer is caused by prions.
Prions? As in – hey, remember mad cow disease? Yes.
The proper name for it is Cervid (deer, elk, etc.,) or Bovine (cows) spongiform encephalopathy. If you take those long words apart, what it means is that the cephalo (brain) is diseased (-pathy). And spongiform means just like sounds, the brain gets spongy. Nice thought, eh?
Calling this devastating disease “chronic wasting” makes it sound less serious. The awful thing is that there’s no cure. And with a population of wild deer roaming o’er hill and dale, there’s probably no chance of getting rid of it, because it can be spread by a healthy animal browsing the grass where a diseased animal was. In the UK, where mad cow was first diagnosed, they only brought it under control by a rigorous program of inspection followed by total slaughter of animals from infected farms.
We are told that Chronic Wasting can’t be passed to humans. They said that about mad cow disease, too, and then they found it can cause a related disease, Creuzfeldt-Jakob, which turns the human brain into something like a sponge.
In the lab, they’ve infected monkeys with Chronic Wasting Disease. Monkeys are primates. So are we. Are we really, really sure we can’t get it? And remember, cooking doesn’t affect the prions.
The Avalanche article emphasized that the only thing to do is to limit the disease from spreading by education, deer check stations, and not bringing in deer carcasses or parts from other states where it might be more prevalent.
So tell people. Tell them it’s deer having mad cow disease. Tell them it’s horribly infectious. Tell them to take their deer to the deer check stations. If you see a deer acting like a mad cow, staggering and falling, or just acting unwell, tell the DNR. But remember, you can’t tell if a deer is sick just by looking at it. In the first 1 1/2 years, they look fine but they’re still infectious.
If you know anyone who wants to bring a deer head in from Wisconsin to get it mounted, don’t just think, “Oh, it won’t hurt anything.” Wisconsin has got a lot of Chronic Wasting. One deer head – just one – can infect our herds.
There’s a bill in the Michigan Legislature to increase the fine for bringing in deer parts from other states. I know a lot of people think government over-regulates, but in this case our Michigan deer herd and our revenue from hunting is at stake. Tell your state legislators, especially the senators (who blocked it last time), to support the bill.
If you’re a hunter, you love that venison. You admire and respect the animals that inhabit our great forests. Even if you aren’t a hunter, your heart lifts when you see deer out in the woods. Let’s keep them safe from the nightmare of mad deer Chronic Wasting Disease.