As if we needed more confusion about Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and its impacts on deer populations and the future of hunting, not to mention the gathering of venison to feed our families, a PhD and public-health scientist has thrown gasoline on the fire by stating, “I think the risk is very high” that CWD could be transmitted to humans that consume infected deer meat.
Mainstream media outlets, including U.S. News & World Reports, have picked up these recent statements and run with it, using terms like “death, dying and zombie deer” that have stoked yet more confusion and fright about the disease.
The National Deer Alliance (NDA) responds in an editorial from its president and CEO, Nick Pinizzotto:
The NDA reminds hunters…that there remains no scientific evidence that chronic wasting disease (CWD) is transmissible to humans….
“Recent statements by Dr. Michael Osterholm from the University of Minnesota regarding the likelihood that human cases of CWD are probable and possibly substantial in number are speculative and sensational, and are not supported by current scientific evidence,” said Nick Pinizzotto, president and CEO of NDA.“Mr. Osterholm’s predictions have created needless confusion in a situation that is already rife with contradictory opinions regarding CWD impacts on the conservation of wild deer and those who enjoy deer as a natural source of protein….”
…it is important that words are chosen wisely, and that the focus is on what is known about the disease, as opposed to speculating on what is not known. Actions taken in response to CWD must be based on the best available science. After more than 50 years of history with CWD, undoubtedly thousands, if not tens of thousands, of infected animals have been eaten, yet there remains no human case of the disease.
The NDA points out that The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to state there is no strong evidence for the occurrence of CWD transmission in humans.
But, and this is what you as a deer hunter need to remember right now, the CDC still recommends that humans not eat deer that test positive for the disease out of an abundance of caution. If you hunt in or near an area where CDW has been detected in deer, you must have the meat tested before eating it.
The NDA agrees with the guidance from CDC but reiterates that the agency does not state transmission to humans is either likely or inevitable.
“The last thing we need to do is scare people away from consuming deer meat…,” said Pinizzotto. “Further research is needed to answer the many important questions we have about CWD and how to manage it, but until science tells us more, we have to move forward armed with the best information available, and nothing more.”