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View Diary: I'm an Elkaholic (91 comments)

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  •  CWD (6+ / 0-)

    Isn't that a concern with elk meat?  I've only had it once, but I've passed on other opportunities because I'm aware that CWD has turned up in free-range elk out west for decades.  

    Where I live, CWD has not turned up in the wild deer herd, but I would be hesitant about eating venison from an area where it was found.  

    Any thoughts?  

    Political compass: -8.75 / -4.72

    by Mark Mywurtz on Sun Feb 03, 2013 at 05:53:00 AM PST

    •  It's been found to be like scrapie (8+ / 0-)

      a prion disease like mad cow but that has been around for 400 years during which we've eaten tons of sheep brains (scrapie is in sheep). Scrapie and CWD don't spread to humans.

      CWD can't be spread to other critters, only ungulates. Which is a good thing, because it's everywhere and the prions last forever.

      Testing reveals around 1 to 4 percent infection in my state. Yet much less than 1% of people bother to get their animals tested, and there are hundreds of thousands of animals eaten every year. People are eating CWD infected meat.

      Two things I'd like to see end, for the health of the herd if nothing else.

      #1 high fence game farms. It seems wrong to restrict wild animals. The captive hunts violate ethical hunting. The meat sold to organic stores is a way for foodies to get meat without working for it. Game farms are where CWD first appeared.

      #2 non hunted populations of ungulates. Ungulates group up around towns and cities to escape predators and eat cultivated lawns and bushes. The unnatural conditions give us the highest incidence of CWD.

      How big is your personal carbon footprint?

      by ban nock on Sun Feb 03, 2013 at 06:31:36 AM PST

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      •  I thought there were 2 unknowns about CWD (5+ / 0-)

        ...but I'm not that informed.  First off, I've never heard anything other than speculation as to how it spreads between animals.  Second, I'm not sure there's proof that i can't be spread to humans--isn't the incubation period supposedly quite long?  

        I support both of your suggestions, though depending on the proximity to human populations, bowhunting may be the only option for some of those herds.  

        Political compass: -8.75 / -4.72

        by Mark Mywurtz on Sun Feb 03, 2013 at 06:43:04 AM PST

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        •  Yes (8+ / 0-)

          As I understand it, all the epidemiological markers point to an oral ingestion as a means of infection with transmission involving an oral-fecal route. However, this has not been demonstrated in the wild largely due to the difficulty in detecting and studying prions.

          There is a long lag between initial infection and symptoms and this may be complicated by a dose-response.  Its possible that other species get infected but never live long enough to experience symptoms or generate prion levels in their tissues that rise to the level of detection.  Scientists don't know.

        •  one can never say never (6+ / 0-)

          but it hasn't spread to humans yet.

          And I called the folks at the University here where CWD first showed up, and talked to one of the scientists for a while. They have all kinds of experiments trying to spread it to other species, particularly mountain lions or bear, but they have a very difficult time. Usually they inject tissue from the brain stem, into mostly domestically raised animals such as chickens, cows, or sheep.

          It bears watching, but I no longer test the animals we eat.

          How big is your personal carbon footprint?

          by ban nock on Sun Feb 03, 2013 at 07:04:45 AM PST

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        •  So far, CWD (6+ / 0-)

          [Chronic Wasting Disease] in cervids has not shown to infect other ruminants, predators or humans, though it is classed as a TSE - Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy - like Mad Cow. Which does infect humans. They say nobody knows where CWD came from in Canada and the U.S., but prions are basically indestructible and are excreted in urine. One of the symptoms of infection is increased thirst and urination, and healthy animals that graze where infected animals have urinated is strongly suspected to be the primary means of transmission.

          Research on the human version of Mad Cow - vCJD - indicated that the incubation period was tied to the exact sequence of the human prion gene in the person exposed. The alpha protein is associated with long term memory, the beta form aggregates into a 'plaque' on neural tissue. To that time the cases of vCJD in the Mad Cow "epidemic" were all found to share two genotypes. Prusinger had identified a total of 42 different common mutations along the gene sequence, I've not seen data that indicates whether any of these polymorphisms render real immunity or just incubation times longer than people normally live.

          I have read about research at one notable teaching hospital that involved autopsies on patients who died of Alzheimer's (not usually autopsied), which 'discovered' that a majority of those diagnosed with AD amyloid plaque disease actually died of CJD. The research was quickly shut down, but I've wondered ever since whether what we call Alzheimer's is really a TSE presenting in later incubation PrP genotypes.

          I know I wouldn't eat venison, but then, I don't eat cows or sheep (or any other red meat) either...

          •  Um, wow. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Joieau

            That's some scary jargon, I think!  

            Political compass: -8.75 / -4.72

            by Mark Mywurtz on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 03:43:03 AM PST

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            •  Sorry, I did some fairly (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Kay Observer2, KenBee

              extensive research on the issue back in the late '90s. Had to learn all the jargon, which is in fact necessary to detail the situation. Didn't bother to go into the subject of CJD/vCJD [Cruetzfeldt-Jacob Disease], which is basically an incurable brain-mush disease that is like Alzheimer's but happens faster and younger to turn human brains into sponges, and has only two causes (identified). Family genetics and eating BSE-infected bovines. BSE = Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, aka 'Mad Cow'. When spongiform encephalopathies infect different species they get grouped under the TSE heading, T for 'transmissible'.

              Deadly brain diseases that come from eating the brains/spinal tissues of members of the same species have long been known. That some are transmissible across species wasn't so well known. The whole BSE/Mad Cow epidemic got started when beef producers started feeding rendered cows to their cattle as feed supplement to get them to grow faster to market size. Turning ruminants into cannibals was really a very bad idea, as it turned out.

              Deal is, cervids - deer, elk, moose, etc. - are herbivores, they are not known to eat the bodies of their dead any more than cattle are. Thus could not be contracting Chronic Wasting Disease from eating the brains or spinal cords of dead cervids. Researchers found that the infectious agent - a mis-folded protein rather than a microbe or virus - was excreted in urine, and that grazing on grass where infected animals had urinated must be an infection pathway. That means BSE likely was transmitted to cervids that grazed the same land as infected cattle. It also means that it's entirely likely some BSE-infected cattle are getting into the food supply still (those 'downer' cows USDA/FDA aren't doing a good job keeping out of slaughterhouses). There were some "cluster outbreaks" of vCJD back then in the U.S., but never officially tied to American beef. Some countries banned US beef imports, but as usual money won the day and even private abattoirs are not allowed by the government to test all animals for BSE. Because it might cast some doubt on the effectiveness of US assurances that no TSE-infected animals are getting into the food supply.

              Nifty how that works, isn't it?

      •  tips for "ungulate" (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ban nock, myboo

        we need that word more

        It's not a fake orgasm; it's a real yawn.

        by sayitaintso on Sun Feb 03, 2013 at 05:20:33 PM PST

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    •  Its a calculated risk (12+ / 0-)

      There is no epidemiological link between venison consumption and variant Creutzfeld-Jakob (sp?) disease in humans living in areas where CWD is endemic in North America.  The CDC and the WHO both advise against eating venison from a deer/elk that is known to have the disease.  Testing is available for hunters who want their venison tested but the tests are only sensitive enough to detect disease at some later stage (how late? who knows).

      The species barrier is very very  robust but its not absolute meaning that prion disease can transfer to other species but again its extremely (!!!) rare.

      Most prions are in the nervous and lymphatic tissues although prions have also been detected in the muscle tissue.

      To boil it down, if you test your deer/elf, bone it out, avoid contamination from spine, brain, and lymph nodes, the risk of a human disease from venison is vanishingly small.  Its almost zero.  But the fact that its not zero means that we should continue to study transmission mechanisms and risk to other species.

      To put things in perspective, the most dangerous activity associated with hunting, even considering gun accidents, is the drive to your hunting area - and we routinely assume the rather large risk associated with driving because its so familiar to us.

    •  What does CWD mean? n/t (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      US Blues, high uintas, Kevskos

      That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

      by concernedamerican on Sun Feb 03, 2013 at 07:50:47 AM PST

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