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The Jackson Hole News & Guide has a piece today (the first in a two-part series) by Cory Hatch about chronic wasting disease research in Wyoming, and the threats and uncertainties that surround it. "Since the mid-90s, when researchers first diagnosed CWD as endemic to the southeast corner of Wyoming, surveillance efforts have tracked the disease as it inched its way west across the state. [Researcher Terry] Kreeger and his colleagues agree, it’s only a matter of time before CWD finds its way to 23 winter feedgrounds in northwest Wyoming, including the National Elk Refuge."

Researching Chronic Wasting Disease in Wyoming

The Jackson Hole News & Guide has a piece today (the first in a two-part series) by Cory Hatch about chronic wasting disease research in Wyoming, and the threats and uncertainties that surround it.

Since the mid-90s, when researchers first diagnosed CWD as endemic to the southeast corner of Wyoming, surveillance efforts have tracked the disease as it inched its way west across the state. [Researcher Terry] Kreeger and his colleagues agree, it’s only a matter of time before CWD finds its way to 23 winter feedgrounds in northwest Wyoming, including the National Elk Refuge.

What happens then is hotly debated. Cousins to chronic wasting disease – including mad cow disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and Kuru, to name a few – have caused panic in international livestock markets and led to human deaths in the United States and abroad. Though scientists have never linked CWD to human illness, nobody is certain how hunters will react to an outbreak.

Click here for the full story.

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5 comments

  1. I find it interesting that mad cow disease can spread to people but chronic wasting does not. I know only a little about the complexity of prions; enough to know it’s beyond my comprehension of any regular disease or even virus.
    anyone know more?

  2. Actually I believe the first known case of CWD in deer was one accidently released from a research center in northern Colorado in the 1960s. It is very hard to find reference to that article anymore, but here is one mentioning them first recognizing the disease then. I can’t remember how they happened to release it, but the rest is history. It is now in a number of states, but more or less clustered within a couple hundred miles of that facility. That is primarily in southern Wyoming and northern Colorado.

    http://www.ct.gov/dep/cwp/view.asp?a=2700&depNav_GID=1633&q=323412

    I will post the article with a better history of the situation if I can find it.

  3. Kreeger’s cheerful optimism is unwarranted and more based on politics than science.
    We know that CWD on elk farms is devastating. What we don’t know is how rapidly it can move through a concentrated population, because game farm elk are all put down when it first shows up.
    It is splitting hairs to cite differences between game farms and feedgrounds — both bring elk into unnatural densities, more so than the normal “yarding” behavior in the winter.
    If the feedgrounds aren’t closed, we’re in for an unparalleled disaster.

  4. Unfortunately we don’t really know how it is transmitted form place to place. Since it can infect rodents are they carried form place to place by winged predators? There is no doubt that it is devastating when it gets into an area, but the problem is how it gets there to begin with.

  5. Currently, CWD has been found in at least 20 states, some much more distant than 100 miles from Laramie. Wisconsin whitetailed deer populations have been devastated by both the disease and the control measures. CWD has been transmitted from animal to animal by direct physical contact and by residual prions in the soil. Spread from place to place, ie. Oklahoma to Nebraska to Illinois, etc can almost always be traced to a truck, sometimes with a game farm logo on the door, most often in an illegal effort to provide a “trophy” hunt within an enclosure.