GOLDEN TRIANGLE, Miss. (WCBI) – The disease Chronic Wasting Disease has become a concern in many states with deer populations.
Mississippi wildlife specialists want to bring the issue to light before it comes into the state borders.
Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD, is a degenerative brain disorder.
The cause of it is already in the animal’s body.
They’re called prions.
“All vertebrae animals produce prions as part of healthy brain function,” said Wildlife Management Professor, Dr. Steve Demarais. “The disease is caused by a bad prion, a misfolded prion, that gets into an organism, causing it to start making misfolded prions instead of regular prions.”
Demarais is with the College of Forest Resources at Mississippi State.
He uses human diseases as examples to give us a better understanding of CWD.
“Very roughly similar to dementia or Alzheimer’s or some of the brain damaged associated with impacts from football players,” said Demarais. “You realize that those things take a long time to occur.”
Some of the symptoms include: the inability to move, process information, or feed properly.
CWD can be transmitted deer-to-deer through bodily fluids, and unlike a bacteria or a virus, prions are not living organisms, making the disease un-treatable.
“It’s kind of like rabies. You know, if a person gets rabies, they’re dead,” compared Demarais.
Biologists suggest the meat can still be used for venison, but Demarais says we have made that mistake before with Mad Cow Disease, which also develops from prions.
“It was thought that it was no problem for human to eat beef,” he said. “Well, turns out that the beef prion is transferable to humans, and people have died from Mad Cow Disease.”
Twenty states are currently dealing with the disease.
So far, Mississippi is not one of them.
Demarais says one wrong move could potentially jeopardize the southern tradition of recreational hunting.
“It goes to our culture in Mississippi.” People love to hunt Whitetail deer,” he said. “I fear the day that we get chronic wasting disease in our deer and then beyond that if humans can someday catch the disease from eating venison.”
According to Demarais, there have been no reported cases of humans catching the disease from contaminated meat.