Copied from the introduction and conclusions of "Chronic Wasting Disease and Potential Transmission to Humans", an article published in the Centers for Disease Control "Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal". It may be best to check this glossary of CWD related terms before continuing:

[Excerpted from introduction:]

Increasing spread of CWD has raised concerns about the potential for increasing human exposure to the CWD agent. The foodborne transmission of bovine spongiform encephalopathy [Mad Cow Disease] to humans indicates that the species barrier may not completely protect humans from animal prion diseases.

Conversion of human prion protein by CWD associated prions has been demonstrated in an in vitro cellfree experiment, but limited investigations have not identified strong evidence for CWD transmission to humans. More epidemiologic and laboratory studies are needed to monitor the possibility of such transmissions.

Conclusions

The lack of evidence of a link between CWD transmission and unusual cases of CJD, despite several epidemiologic investigations, and the absence of an increase in CJD incidence in Colorado and Wyoming suggest that the risk, if any, of transmission of CWD to humans is low.

Although the in vitro studies indicating inefficient conversion of human prion protein by CWD-associated prions raise the possibility of low-level transmission of CWD to humans, no human cases of prion disease with strong evidence of a link with CWD have been identified.

However, the transmission of BSE to humans and the resulting vCJD indicate that, provided sufficient exposure, the species barrier may not completely protect humans from animal prion diseases.

Because CWD has occurred in a limited geographic area for decades, an adequate number of people may not have been exposed to the CWD agent to result in a clinically recognizable human disease. The level and frequency of human exposure to the CWD agent may increase with the spread of CWD in the United States.

Because the number of studies seeking evidence for CWD transmission to humans is limited, more epidemiologic and laboratory studies should be conducted to monitor the possibility of such transmissions. Studies involving transgenic mice expressing human and cervid prion protein are in progress to further assess the potential for the CWD agent to cause human disease.

Epidemiologic studies have also been initiated to identify human cases of prion disease among persons with an increased risk for exposure to potentially CWD-infected deer or elk meat. If such cases are identified, laboratory data showing similarities of the etiologic agent to that of the CWD agent would strengthen the conclusion for a causal link.

Surveillance for human prion diseases, particularly in areas where CWD has been detected, remains important to effectively monitor the possible transmission of CWD to humans. Because of the long incubation period associated with prion diseases, convincing negative results from epidemiologic and experimental laboratory studies would likely require years of follow-up.

In the meantime, to minimize the risk for exposure to the CWD agent, hunters should consult with their state wildlife agencies to identify areas where CWD occurs and continue to follow advice provided by public health and wildlife agencies.

Hunters should avoid eating meat from deer and elk that look sick or test positive for CWD. They should wear gloves when field-dressing carcasses, boneout the meat from the animal, and minimize handling of brain and spinal cord tissues.

As a precaution, hunters should avoid eating deer and elk tissues known to harbor the CWD agent (e.g., brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils, lymph nodes) from areas where CWD has been identified.

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