Monday, February 20, 2006

Prions...now this is a scary bug.




While so much attention these days is on Bird Flu...and rightly so. There is another that bugs me. While I'm more into upland game birds, I have alot of friends and clients that deer hunt. After a recent advisory from the Fla. Dept of Agriculture....I worry about eating venison these days. For those that dont know there is a disease called CWD (chronic wasting disease) of deer and elk that is seen out in the west and mid -west that is caused by an organism called a "Prion". This is actually a sub-viral particle that you cannot eliminate , sterilize or kill. You can't cook it out of or irradiate from the meat. These buggers are bad news. It is similar to the organism that causes mad-cow disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) ,a progressive dementia that is fatal.
We know that CWD can be transmitted intra species and the potential for humans to develop a dementia after consuming venison is high. The good news is that we have not seen it here in Florida....but that doesn't mean it's not a possibility or that meat from other states should not be viewed with caution.

2 comments:

George said...

"...and the potential for humans to develop a dementia after consuming venison is high."

I hope this is a misprint, Doc. There is not a single suspected case of CWD being transmitted to humans thru the ingestion of tainted venison. As a matter of fact, there is no evidence whatsoever that CWD poses a risk to humans, period.

We had four positives here in NY this past year (two wild deer, two captive deer). West Virginia had five positives in wild deer last fall. Unfortunately, CWD is here in the northeast, as well as the midwest.

Dr. Alan Weldon said...

George
This is only my opinion as to the potential risk of Prion infection. Since there are no current antemortem tests available and the period of infection/ingestion to clinical disease highly variable.....then my thoughts are such that I now chose to avoid venison. The transmission with other prions such as CJD , Kuru (in Papua New Guinea) and Scrapie which most likely lead to the BSE problem and the varient CJD in Europe should warrent some concern. I saw two cases of Scrapie while a resident in NY at Cornell and unfortunately the farmers know what it looks like as well and would usually kill and bury the suspects instead of notifiying the State Veterinarian. This is due to the fact that the State would then erradicate the flock with minimal compensation. So, it does not surprise me that prion disease is present in NY state. Perhaps the use the word "high" is hyperbole, but who knows, perhaps not. Why are some infected with vCJD and others not, perhaps it is related to some having small ulcerations and portals of entry and other not, I don't know. In Papua New Guinea the onset of disease could be a long time the same with typical CJD, however vCJD showed a much more rapid onset and many teenagers tragically affected. I guess the real test is if you had venison or elk that you knew was infected....would you feed it to your kids. . My decision was no....and I guess I'd call that risk high.
My best, thanks for the comment
Doc Weldon