24 July 2024
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Understanding Chronic Wasting Disease: A Deadly Brain Disease Found in California Deer

Chronic wasting disease (CWD), a deadly brain disease affecting wildlife populations, has recently been detected in two wild California deer. This marks the first occurrence of the disease in the state’s deer and elk population. The infected samples were obtained from a deer near Yosemite Lakes in Madera County and another deer that was struck by a vehicle near Bishop in Inyo County. State wildlife officials have indicated that the presence of CWD in these disparate locations suggests that the disease may have been circulating in California for some time, given its lengthy incubation period.

What is Chronic Wasting Disease?

Chronic wasting disease, often referred to as “zombie deer disease,” is a contagious infection that is similar to mad cow disease. It has been identified in various regions of North America, including Canada and 34 U.S. states, as well as in countries like Norway and South Korea. The disease primarily affects members of the cervid family, such as deer, elk, reindeer, and moose. CWD targets the brain and nervous system, leading to severe neurological symptoms in infected animals. These symptoms include drastic weight loss, stumbling, listlessness, and other signs of neurologic impairment.

Risks and Precautions

Although there is currently no evidence to suggest that CWD can be transmitted to humans, health officials emphasize the importance of preventing the disease from entering the food supply. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend avoiding consumption of meat from animals known to be infected with CWD. To mitigate the spread of the disease, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has been actively monitoring elk and deer populations for signs of CWD since 2000. Hunters are encouraged to have their harvested deer or elk tested at designated sampling stations to help identify and control the spread of the disease.

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Public Health Concerns and Surveillance Efforts

Given the fatal nature of chronic wasting disease and the lack of known treatments or vaccines, public health officials are closely monitoring the situation and working to enhance surveillance efforts. Brandon Munk, the state’s wildlife veterinarian overseeing CWD surveillance and response, emphasizes the role of the public in reporting any signs of illness in deer and elk populations. By actively participating in disease monitoring efforts, individuals can contribute to limiting the spread of CWD and protecting wildlife populations from this devastating brain disease.

The recent detection of chronic wasting disease in California’s deer population highlights the importance of ongoing surveillance and public awareness. By staying informed about the risks associated with CWD and taking proactive measures to prevent its spread, individuals can play a crucial role in safeguarding both wildlife and public health.

Links to additional Resources:

1. https://www.cdph.ca.gov/ 2. https://www.cdc.gov/ 3. https://www.who.int/

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Chronic wasting disease, Mad cow disease, Cervidae

Chronic wasting disease
Chronic wasting disease (CWD), sometimes called zombie deer disease, is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) affecting deer. TSEs are a family of diseases thought to be caused by misfolded proteins called prions and include similar diseases such as BSE (mad cow disease) in cattle, Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD) in humans and...
Read more: Chronic wasting disease

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy
Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease, is an incurable and invariably fatal neurodegenerative disease of cattle. Symptoms include abnormal behavior, trouble walking, and weight loss. Later in the course of the disease, the cow becomes unable to function normally. There is conflicting information about the time...
Read more: Bovine spongiform encephalopathy

Deer
A deer (pl.: deer) or true deer is a hoofed ruminant ungulate of the family Cervidae. It is divided into subfamilies Cervinae (which includes, among others, muntjac, elk (wapiti), red deer, and fallow deer) and Capreolinae (which includes, among others reindeer (caribou), white-tailed deer, roe deer, and moose). Male deer...
Read more: Deer

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