Fear that the deadly brain-wasting deer disease known as Chronic Wasting Disease could jump to humans has state officials addressing concerns.
We know Chronic Wasting disease or CWD infects the brain, spine, and tissue of deer, but Wildlife Veterinarian for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Dr. Dan Grove says there is a lot of unknown like if the disease could infect people.
“Obviously there is a concern and that’s why we don’t want to say yeah, it’s safe to eat because we don’t know that it is. We also don’t know that it isn’t.”
Infectious disease doctors at Vanderbilt say there is concern, comparing CWD to Creutzfeldt Jacob Disease in humans.
However, state health officials are quick to point out there have been no documented cases of humans contracting CWD.
“There is research being done, but right now there is no evidence that humans have acquired CWD from deer,” Dr. John Dunn Deputy State Epidemiologist told News 2.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says some animal studies suggest CWD poses a risk to some types of non-human primates like monkeys, studies that raise concerns that there may also be a risk to people.
“The jury is still out and that’s why we advise caution,” explained Dr. Grove.
The best advice? Don’t eat contaminated meat. Something that can’t be tested once the meat has been processed.
“We need samples from the head and most of the time the head is gone by this point in time. There’s not really a test that somebody’s got their meat in the freezer, we can’t test that,” said Grove.
So far, nearly 200 deer have tested positive in Tennessee, since discovering it in the state in December.
“We are looking at 183 positives so it’s been on the landscape for a little while at this point in time, so there is already a certain level of environmental contamination and it doesn’t mean there’s not something we can do about it means we have to look at different management strategies than we would have if it were just a few animals,” explained Grove.
He says once the disease is in the environment it is permanent, a challenge as they monitor more than 1.4 million acres in the CWD zone.
“I’m pretty concerned about it. We’ve got a roughly 8 to 10 percent prevalence is what we are looking at and so that’s like a 1 in 10 deer potentially are infected in that given area. You know it’s going to change the face of hunting in that area definitely and potentially across the state some time to come,” said Grove.