Deer hunting is a major problem in many US states and surveys suggest that about 10 million hunters regularly participate in this activity. As all hunters will tell you, catching a deer is not always the easiest task, but a growing risk of disease makes the situation even harder for athletes, even after they've made a living.
Public health officials and infectious disease researchers are doing their best to raise public awareness of a disease that has now been confirmed in deer populations in at least 24 states. This is what is called Chronic Wasting Disease and the Centers for Disease Control are concerned that it is possible that the disease will spread to humans who consume infected animals.
If you live in an area where deer hunting is common, you may have heard of chronic debilitating disease (CDD). This disease is not particularly new – it was discovered in the late 1960s – but confirmed cases of this disease among wild deer and elk populations have rapidly spread to new states since 2001.
The disease is absolutely devastating for the affected animals. They assume a "zombie-like" state and exhibit strange behavior and physical deterioration, with apparent ribs and a generally sickly appearance.
MDC affects the brain with misfolded proteins called prions. Prion diseases exist in humans and are usually life threatening. The same is true for animals with CWD. The disease progresses to the death of the animal and there is no known cure or means to repair the damage.
The CDC warns against the consumption (or even physical contact) of an animal suspected of being infected with MDC. It is recommended to let animals suspected of having MDC without harvesting them. It is advisable for hunters to have all the animals killed killed in areas where it is known that MDC is tested before eating the meat, even if the animal appeared to be in good health. .
It should be noted that there is no scientific evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans by an infected deer. However, since prion infections due to animal consumption have already been implicated in deaths, it is therefore advisable to exercise caution.