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The prospects of "zombie deers" running amok have gotten worse throughout the year and Nevada regulators are trying to keep them out of the state. But it's a fight that may be difficult to win.

Known as chronic wasting disease (CWD), the highly contagious and often deadly affliction has ravaged the deer population in an estimated 24 states and two Canadian provinces, Fox News reported earlier this year. As the disease, which causes a lack of fear of humans, lethargy and emaciation, decimates deer and elk populations, Nevada officials are trying to prevent it as much as they can.

So far, officials have tested dead animals and have kept an eye on migrating elk and deer coming from Utah to look for signs of the sickness, Peregrine Wolff, a Nevada Department of Wildlife veterinarian, said. Nevada lawmakers passed a law earlier this year to keep parts of certain carcasses out of the state in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease.

CWD is not a viral or bacterial disease; rather it is transmitted by prions, protein particles that have been linked to brain diseases including mad cow disease. Prion diseases severely damage brain tissue and are incurable.

Nevada lawmakers this year banned bringing certain animal body parts into the state, including the brain and the spinal cord that can contain large concentrations of prions.

In testimony about the proposed law, Tyler Turnipseed, chief Nevada game warden, posed a scenario where local populations are infected by exposure to butchered waste dumped by a hunter passing through Nevada from another state.

In April, a ranch-raised elk in Oklahoma tested positive for the deadly disease after it died of injuries.
 
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Comments

Alf

Keeper of the Dowager Tabby
Staff member
There is concern too that variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, or vCJD (that used to be called new variant CJD) could be passed on to people from deer afflicted with CWD, much the same way it was apparently passed on to people from cattle with bovine spongiform encephalopathy in Great Britain.

Prions are simultaneously fascinating little bastards and nasty little bastards. They are highly resistant to standard sterilization practices, for one; yet they are nothing more that proteins that got folded wrong, for another, and should be vulnerable to practices that will destroy their properly-folded cousins.

--Al
 

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Shimazu

Active Member
There is concern too that variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, or vCJD (that used to be called new variant CJD) could be passed on to people from deer afflicted with CWD, much the same way it was apparently passed on to people from cattle with bovine spongiform encephalopathy in Great Britain.
Wait, someone managed to scientifically demonstrate that it actually works across the species barrier? Last I heard several years back, there wasn't any actual evidence that mad cow could affect humans. It was all speculation at that point.
 

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Alf

Keeper of the Dowager Tabby
Staff member
Read where old hillbillies that ate squirrel brains scrambled up in eggs could suffer from similar effects but it usually if at all will show up in their kids or grandkids to some extent.
It isn't genetic; instead, it's those misfolded proteins causing vCJD in the afflicted. This is a matter of some interest to me, because as a result of my military service overseas I cannot be said to be free of exposure to some prion disease or other. And I cannot donate blood.

--Al
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Wait, someone managed to scientifically demonstrate that it actually works across the species barrier? Last I heard several years back, there wasn't any actual evidence that mad cow could affect humans. It was all speculation at that point.
American farming has an abundance of sources of plant proteins, while the number in Europe is much smaller. Europeans used to put offal in the commercial ruminant feed, and researchers believed that the feed may have been contaminated with scrapie-infected sheep byproducts. I don't know if I can put my hands on the source of that information at this late date.

--Al

ETA: I did find something about research into Kuru, the "laughing sickness" of Papua New Guinea, that said the researchers were able to induce a spongiform encephalopathy in a chimpanzee by inoculating the animal with cells from a human who had died of Kuru. That was the first known cross-species infection with a prion disease, and it happened in the late 50s or the early 60s.

-A
 
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