No evidence that deer disease can spread to humans, livestock
A recent nationwide report that chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer and elk might be transmitted to humans hasn’t been validated anywhere in Utah nor in Sanpete County.
In fact, there hasn’t been a single verified case of a person living in Utah contracting CWD, said a spokesperson with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
CWD was first detected in a Utah buck taken during the rifle hunt near Vernal in 2002. Since then the disease has grown a slightly steady rate and popped up in many areas of the state, the spokesperson said. Since 2002, a total of 89 deer and two elk have tested positive for the disease in Utah.
The third ever Utah case of CWD was detected in a doe near Fountain Green in 2003. There have also been reported cases of deer with CWD being harvested in the mountains above the Sanpete Valley.
While the disease is certainly something to watch out for, there are also no reports that CWD has spread to domestic livestock, such as cattle or sheep, said Utah Department of Agriculture field veterinarian Dr. Robert Erickson.
Some scientist with the Center for Disease control have suggested it might be possible for CWD to spread to cattle or even humans, as the disease is spread by prions, or protein molecules. This is how mad cow disease is transmitted to humans.
However, the CDC has also reported the risk of transmission from animals to humans is considered to be extremely low.
So, for the time being, there is no need for Sanpete County residents to be more concerned than usual about CWD.
However, hunters are cautioned not to eat any meat from animals that might be infected with CWD, nor should they harvest any animals that appear to be sick.
According to wildlife.utah.gov, CWD is a relatively rare transmissible disease that affects the nervous systems of deer, elk and moose. Infected animals develop brain lesions, become emaciated, appear listless and have droopy ears, may salivate excessively and eventually die.