Warning to Wisconsin deer hunters after new CWD study - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Warning to Wisconsin deer hunters after new CWD study

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UPDATE (WKOW) -- With archery and crossbow deer season starting this month, several hunters will soon be bringing back their kill. But before you eat the venison, a new study is out that's raising questions as to what disease could be passed on to you. 

It's a disease that's been found in deer throughout southern Wisconsin: Chronic wasting disease, also known as CWD.  

"The higher prevalence is in the southwest. So, right now it could be anywhere between 20-40 percent," said Keith Poulsen, a veterinarian with the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Lab. 

Poulsen said 24 counties across Wisconsin have deer with the infectious neurological disease. 

"You're going to have the inability to control your limbs, potentially different organs, so then the animal isn't able to feed itself," Poulsen said. 

Due to a recent study, Poulsen is now sending an urgent warning to hunters when it comes to deer meat.

"I would process it no problem, but I would want it tested before I would feed it to my family," he added. 

The study was conducted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the abstract was released in April. It found that monkeys who were fed deer meat with CWD ended up contracting the disease. It now raises questions on whether the disease could be passed on to humans.

"The chance is not zero, but it's very small," said Poulsen. 

Still, the best way to stay clear is to test your deer. 

"You can take it to a harvesting station or you can call a veterinarian," he said. 

You can also bring your deer to the diagnostic lab to be tested for CWD. It will also help scientists track the disease throughout Wisconsin. 

A strong warning for thousands of hunters before deer season begins, as scientists race to learn more about the threatening disease. 

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MADISON (WKOW) – Research monkeys given meat infected with chronic wasting disease later became infected with the disease, according to preliminary results from a Canadian study.

The study, conducted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, has only been published in abstract form and has yet to complete the peer review process.

The findings, however, are a signal that more research on the risk of CWD to human health is necessary and that hunters should strongly consider testing their deer, especially if the animals were taken in any of the Wisconsin counties affected by CWD, said veterinarian Keith Poulsen, diagnostic and case outreach coordinator for WVDL.

The study is being closely watched by the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (WVDL) on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

Last year, some 6,600 Wisconsin hunters submitted tissue samples from harvested deer to WVDL for testing for chronic wasting disease, the infectious neurological disease that has been found in both wild and captive deer in at least 24 Wisconsin counties, mostly in the southern half of the state, according to a news release from WVDL.

"This is the first controlled study of contaminated meat causing clinical disease," says Poulsen of the research, where over a three-year period five monkeys were fed a diet that included the equivalent of a single seven-ounce venison steak per month. Three of the monkeys became infected, with two showing clinical signs of the disease. "The results show we need to continue this work."

To date, there is no evidence showing that CWD - which has been found in deer, elk, moose and reindeer - can be or has been transmitted from animals to humans. CWD is one in a family of diseases caused by a prion, a nearly indestructible infectious agent whose epidemiology and mechanisms of action and transmission are not fully understood.

"The chance of someone getting prion disease is remote, but not zero," Poulsen explains. "It would be a mistake to ignore it." 

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