Study: Hunters Die After Consuming CWD-Infected Venison



Field and Stream

Study: Hunters Die After Consuming CWD-Infected Venison

Story by Travis Hall

• 1d • 3 min read
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This file photo from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks shows whitetail buck racked with Chronic Wasting Disease at a research facility in the Sunflower State.
© Kansas Department of Parks and Wildlife

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been sweeping through North American deer herds since it was first detected at a captive cervid facility in Wyoming in 1967. In all the decades since, there’s never been a documented and confirmed instance of the always-fatal neurological disease jumping the species barrier, from cervids into humans. According to a new study, published last week in the journal Neurology, that long-discussed and frequently dreaded transmission of CWD from hunter-harvested deer into human beings might have actually occurred in 2022.

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The study title alone is enough to perk the ears of anyone who’s followed the CWD epidemic over the years. “Two Hunters from the Same Lodge Afflicted with Sporadic CJD,” it reads. “Is Chronic Wasting Disease to Blame?”

The authors go on to highlight “a cluster of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) cases after exposure to chronic wasting disease (CWD)-infected deer.” Those findings, they say, are “suggestive of potential prion transmission from CWD-infected deer to humans.”

CJD is better known for its association with Mad Cow Disease. Like CWD, mad cow disease is transmitted in cows through mis-folded proteins called prions. And like CWD, it causes a cascade of brain-related maladies that ultimately lead to death in the bovines unlucky enough to contract it. Mad Cow Disease has been shown to transmit to human beings through the consumption of infected beef. When the disease manifests in people, it’s referred to as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

The recent paper describes an unnamed hunter who contracted CJD after regular consumption of venison from deer infected with Chronic Wasting Disease. “In 2022, a 72-year-old man with a history of consuming meat from a CWD-infected deer population presented with rapid-onset confusion and aggression,” it reads.

Those are classic symptoms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. “Despite aggressive symptomatic treatment of seizures and agitation, the patient’s condition deteriorated and he died within a month of initial presentation,” the study goes on to state. “The diagnosis was confirmed postmortem as sporadic CJD.”

Given the patients history of consuming CWD-infected deer meat, the authors suggest “a possible novel animal-to-human transmission of CWD.” They also studied the case of one of the hunters friends who ate venison from the same deer population. That person recently died from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease as well, the authors says.

The Neurology study doesn’t reveal where the individuals who contracted CJD lived and hunted, but the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that CWD has been detected in 32 U.S. state to date. The three states with the largest distribution of CWD-infected deer by county are Kansas, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. The disease is also prevalent in Canadian deer herds.

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Study: Hunters Die After Consuming CWD-Infected Venison

Study: Hunters Die After Consuming CWD-Infected Venison© Provided by Field and Stream

The authors of the April 9 study are quick to point out that causation for the recent CJD cases in hunters remains unproven. But their findings underscore the grave threats of consuming CWD-infected meat, and the importance of having deer meat tested for CWD by your state fish and game agency whenever possible.

“Further investigation into the potential risks of consuming CWD-infected deer and its implications for public health,” the study concludes. “Surveillance and further research are essential to better understand this possible association.”

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Thanks for the heads up.

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How do deer get infected with prion disease? They are not predators, and prions decompose outside the body (eg, on the vegetation).

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Close proximity, breathing it in and or licking each other. This first started in Deer farms
and spread to the wild. This is why baiting has been discouraged or out right banned. :thinking:

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The main cause of transmission in big commercial cattle operations was adding bone meal from sick animals to the feed. I am not a medical or vet professional, this is what I recall reading.

This better not be from eating Wuhan bats again.

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Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Resource Center | National Deer Association

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a prion disease that affects deer and other cervids. It’s believed to spread through:

  • Direct contact with an infected animal
  • Contact with a contaminated environment (as CWD prions can remain in the environment for a long time)
  • Movement of live deer and high-risk parts of harvested animals

CWD prions are highly contagious within deer populations and can spread quickly once introduced into an area or farm12.

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The original article does say that several times… More study is needed. :slightly_smiling_face:

The main take away here is… Don’t eat obviously infected deer (or any) meat.

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I am old enough to remember early studies about covid, how the virus survives on surfaces for days and weeks (in reality, minutes), and how it originated in an anteater or bats.

Why had they published this misleading, baseless stuff? I can see why someone would fearmonger today, to discourage people from harvesting meat independently.

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And I can also see why any State wildlife agency would not want this to be true, if hunters stop buying licenses, (true or not) would be catastrophic for the DNR. Two sides of that coin.

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To me, such an important topic.

In the state I’m in, the dept of natural resource webpage reads:

What do my test results mean?

“Some hunters may expect a waiting period of 2-3 weeks for results due to the large volume of samples being tested.”

" Pending " - Test results for this animal have not yet been completed; check back at a later date.

" Not Detected " - Laboratory tests failed to detect any evidence of CWD in this animal.

" Positive " - CWD was detected in this animal.

" No Test " - There are a variety of reasons why a valid test may not be possible on a sample. In some instances the specific tissue needed for testing may not have been present in the sample. In other cases, the tissue may have been in poor condition, making it unusable. No inferences can be made about the presence or absence of CWD in these situations. "

When we “process” (butcher), should we wear masks and gloves, check for any accidental cuts on ourselves afterwards?

Do deer hunters freeze or refrigerate it until they receive the test result?

If they receive a No Test result after requesting, should they discard the entire deer, but if so, which is a most proper method?

Once when I hunted much smaller game, the park authorities asked I gut, field dress the animal out there in the field and just pile any nonedible remains there, and never dig a hole nor ever leave it in a trash bin.

My other concern is if CWD will crossover jump into other species. Wanting to help us find a cure; What a keystone species to life as we know it. I had read a study when Covid 19 was at its peak, at least 40% of deer also tested positive for Covid.

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From an Outdoor Life article.

Have You Seen These Deer Diseases In Your Local Woods? (outdoorlife.com)

Can One of These Deer Diseases Kill a Human?

The disease that struck the three hunters is ominously similar to another disease that’s spreading in deer and elk in Colorado and Wyoming. This possible connection has some people pointing to deer meat and crying killer.

The accusation could prove true. The disease found in deer and elk is called Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), and it’s closely related to Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), which is what killed the hunters. Both CJD and CWD are classified as “transmissible spongiform encephalopathies” (TSE). Diseases don’t always make the leap from one species to another, but there is a connection between chronic wasting disease and Creutzfeldt-Jacob that has many scientists concerned: Another TSE-bovine spongiform chronic encephalopathy (BSE)-spread from cattle to humans in the United Kingdom, where it was dubbed “Mad Cow Disease.”

Mad Cow Disease exploded in U.K. cattle herds in the late 1980s and early ’90s. But it was not until 1996 that it was found to have crossed over to humans. Since then, 43 people are known to have died in the U.K. from Mad Cow Disease, but because of its long incubation period-possibly up to 20 years-it may yet kill many more. The disease resulted in European bans on British beef and forced the destruction of more than half of the cattle in the U.K.

Because of the similarity, CWD has already been nicknamed “Mad Deer Disease,” but it hasn’t yet proved as sinister. In fact, another TSE called “scrapie” has afflicted sheep for at least 250 years and has never been found to cross over to humans. Still, because of Mad Cow Disease, CWD is hitting the hunting world like a horror movie monster, lurking unseen in the shadows.

Scientists, however, are on the monster’s trail. More than a dozen states and the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in cooperation with the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) are pouring money and resources into a thus-far-quiet, but nevertheless massive, investigation. They’re trying to answer two questions: Is CWD killing people? And where is CWD?

To answer the first question, the CDC is taking a street cop approach by chasing down every lead that comes into its Atlanta headquarters. And with what they’ve found so far, this horror movie is starting to feel more like an X-File. Larry Schonberger, a medical epidemiologist for the CDC, says, “I’ve sent one of our epidemiologists out to investigate to see if there’s a link between CWD and the (three) hunters’ deaths. I did this because two of the victims were young gone was 27 years old, the other 30. That’s very unusual. CJD normally shows up in people well over 30. But our scientist’s initial report is that the deer eaten by the victims had not come from (known])infected areas. But we’re taking no chances. In fact, a young girl died in a southern state from CJD who had reportedly eaten venison that her father had shot in Maine, so this year 300 deer will be checked for the disease in Maine.

“At this point we can’t rule out a link between Chronic Wasting Disease and the hunters’ deaths, but I think it’s unlikely. CJD occurs all over the world at a ratio of about one in 1 million people. Each year in the U.S. 250 to 300 people die from CJD. So it’s understandable that a few of the victims happened to have eaten venison,” says Schonberger.

Meanwhile, APHIS and many state agencies are doing a broader search to discover if CWD can be found outside known infected areas, and to find out how fast it’s spreading from the infected area. Since there is no accurate test that can be performed on living animals, scientists are checking brain samples. The samples are collected at deer check stations and meat processors. From there they are sent to a number of labs for analysis. Colorado and Wyoming each check thousands of samples annually at their own research facilities, but other states, such as Nebraska, South Dakota, Montana and Nevada, seend their samples to the APHIS lab in Ames, Iowa. So far no wild deer or elk outside of Wyoming and Colorado have shown up with the disease. CWD has been found in elk produced in the game-farm industry, however.

Both CDC and APHIS efforts are designed simply to get a fix on the situation. Right now not much can be done to stop or prevent Mad Deer Disease because scientists know so little about it. To get answers, however, labs worldwide are intensively studying all spongiform encephalopathies. The CDC, for instance, is investigating this group of pathogens at its Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. But despite the intensive research efforts, answers are slow to come.

In fact, scientists don’t even agree on what causes TSEs, although there is wide support for a theory put forth by Stanley Prusiner, M.D., a professor of neurology at the University of California at San Francisco, whose research won him the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1997. Prusiner theorizes that “prions” (proteinaceous infectious particles) cause this family of diseases, and not a virus, as was previously assumed. His chief reason for fingering “rogue proteins” is that the chemical and physical procedures that destroy most viruses don’t affect TSEs, whereas procedures that have been found to degrade proteins seem to inactivate them. Prusiner’s hypothesis is that prions kill by turning normal proteins in nerve cells into infectious ones by forcing them to alter their shape.

A Doomsday for Deer?

In light of the recent conjecture about CWD killing humans, it’s easy to overlook one certainty about this disease: It kills deer. The ramifications of that indisputable fact are almost as unsettling. Before we go on, keep three things in mind: CWD is spreading, CWD is always fatal and CWD has no known cure.

In the infected areas of Wyoming and Colorado, about 4 to 8 percent of deer and 1 percent of elk have the disease, according to Beth Williams, a professor of veterinary services with the University of Wyoming, and Mike Miller, a biologist with the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

“It’s been spreading slowly since it was first found in the wild in 1981,” Williams says. “We think (CWD) passes from animal to animal through bodily fluids. So it probably takes physical contact of some kind to pass the disease.”

That said, the spread of CWD may soon pick up speed because whitetails may be next on its hit list. Thus far the disease has mostly spread in mule deer up the South Platte drainage in northeastern Colorado. Mule deer have fairly thin population densities along the river, but whitetails have heavy population densities in this area. This dilemma has Miller worried because the whitetail’s heavier population density means there is a greater chance of physical contact, which means CWD could move more rapidly. “Based on some computer models that we did at the Division of Wildlife, this scenario could prove devastating,” Miller says.

“The only preventive measure we can take is to cut down the deer population in the infected areas. But these areas are popular with hunters, so that would be controversial. As a result, right now we’re just checking for the disease, but unless something is done, CWD could spread farther and farther east. I’m not saying that it’ll be in New Jersey next year, but in 10 or 15 years, who knows?”

So this article ends not with a climax, but with a “to be continued.” Many questions still surround what we hope is erroneously named Mad Deer Disease. Consequently, we’re left in the dark, speculating as to what it means to deer, to hunting and to hunters. –– Frank Miniter

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THAT’S IT!
This Explains it All!
The last (4) years!
This Administration has Gotten ‘CWD’ !
'Outbursts, Aggression! Mad Pudding Disease! Holy SH!T!
THEY EAT THEIR OWN and the Spread got out of control!
You folks are Geniuses!
Thank you BRUCE!

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What Ever Happened to Mad Cow? (msn.com)

Take away comments.

One of the most existentially frightening illnesses ever to be discovered was mad cow disease, a fatal prion-spread illness that appeared in animals in the 1980s and killed over 200 people during the height of the outbreak in the late 1990s. You don’t hear much about mad cow today, but the threat still looms. Here’s what happened to this nightmare germ.

Still, millions of BSE-infected cattle might have entered the food supply before the epidemic was recognized and contained. And many scientists dreaded the potential ticking bomb of new vCJD cases in humans that would explode within a few years. But we got lucky. To date, only around 230 cases of vCJD from a dozen countries have been reported, mostly from the UK, with the peak of annual new cases in 1999.

Research would later show that our risk of catching vCJD from infected beef is crucially influenced by our genetics, with only a small percentage of people carrying the particular version of the prion protein gene that makes them especially vulnerable. And as scary and universally fatal as they are, prion diseases of any kind in people remain very rare.

That’s not to say that the BSE and vCJD outbreaks were nothingburgers. The emergence of BSE changed meat industry practices forever, almost certainly for the better (other widespread measures included banning cow brain and spinal cord tissue from being used to feed humans at all). It’s also why people have been barred from blood donation if they spent time in the UK and nearby countries during the 1980s and 1990s (several cases of vCJD were likely caused by blood transfusion), though countries like the U.S. and Canada are now starting to lift these bans. And while prions were discovered just before the crisis, the media and public attention fueled plenty of funding into deciphering these mysterious agents of disease.

Prions remain an important public health threat in other animals, too. In deer, moose, and elk, they can cause chronic wasting disease, first discovered in the 1960s. And though the overall prevalence of chronic wasting disease in the U.S. still appears low, it can cause large outbreaks in farmed deer, and there is evidence that the disease will continue to expand and reach new areas of the country (unlike BSE and CJD, chronic wasting disease prions seem to spread more easily between deer). To date, there’s no solid evidence that chronic wasting disease can infect and sicken humans—for now at least.

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From another article. :thinking:

Scientists Suggest First Link Between Always-Fatal Deer Disease CWD and Human Deaths (msn.com)

Do Hunters Need to Be Concerned?

The short answer is yes. However, this concern isn’t new. The article published by the American Academy of Neurology certainly paints the possibility of a plausible link between the two and certainly is a step toward pushing for more study, but it isn’t a concrete link.

It’s certainly alarming that two men known to consume meat from CWD-infected deer both seem to have died from conditions so closely linked to the disease. It’s worth noting that, unlike bacteria or viruses, prions cannot be neutralized by cooking.

As both a hunter and a former biological and biomedical science major, I’ve had the opportunity to look at spongiform encephalopathy firsthand. That experience has made my stance pretty staunch on whether or not my family would consume meat from a CWD-suspected or -confirmed deer. The answer is: NO.

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A little more info on the 2 Hunters involved.

Takeaway comment… disease in deer and its possible transmission to humans and to ascertain whether other hunters should be warned not to eat local venison.

APRIL 23, 2024 REPORT

Consumption of contaminated venison suspected in cases of deer hunters with prion disease

by Bob Yirka , Medical Xpress

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

A small team of medical workers and researchers in the U.S. has published a case study of two men, both deer hunters, who developed a rare prion disease. In their study, published in the journal Neurology, the group describes the symptoms of the two patients and how they died.

Prior research has shown that some wild animals, such as deer, can become infected with a type of prion disease known as chronic wasting disease. In humans, the resulting disease is known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), also called mad-cow disease, when it is caused by eating infected beef.

Prion diseases come about when misfolding of prion proteins occurs in the nervous system. They all progress until the infected person dies. Prior research has shown that progression occurs due to initial misfoldings, which impact proteins in the same physical area, causing them to fold, and so on, resulting in propagation of the disease.

In the case study, a 72-year-old male was admitted to the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio. He reported that he had been experiencing confusion and emotional problems. Over time, he also began to experience other symptoms, such as seizures. He died just a month after admission. The patient was diagnosed with CJD.

The diagnosis was surprising because it reminded the team of another patient who had died contemporaneously from the same disease. A little detective work showed that the men knew each other and were both local deer hunters who had consumed venison.

The medical team suggests that two patients with the same rare disease at nearly the same time implies they had both eaten venison from the same animal or another in its group—an extremely rare case of novel animal-to-human transmission of chronic wasting disease.

The researchers acknowledge that they do not have proof of the disease coming from the same animals, but suggest more research is required both to better understand the disease in deer and its possible transmission to humans and to ascertain whether other hunters should be warned not to eat local venison.

More information: Jonathan Trout et al, Two Hunters from the Same Lodge Afflicted with Sporadic CJD: Is Chronic Wasting Disease to Blame? (P7-13.002), Neurology (2024). DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000204407

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