October 25, 2002 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by John Fauber and Mark Johnson Jfauber@Journalsentinel.Com
The Wisconsin Medical Society on Thursday joined the growing list of
organizations offering recommendations on how to deal with chronic
wasting disease by urging, among other things, that the state provide
at least one Dumpster in every county for the disposal of deer
The society also recommended that all meat processors who butcher venison be licensed as a way to ensure that they follow proper venison butchering procedures.
The society's report follows recommendations made earlier this month by the Medical Society of Milwaukee County, which recommended that the state adopt the same regulations for deer processing that the English imposed on the British beef industry.
The report from the state society addressed butchering concerns and also had recommendations for hunters and physicians. For instance, it says hunters should use disposable knives and saws, not utility knives or hunting knives, to field dress and butcher deer.
It also said hunters should wear latex gloves and that they should not cut across the spinal cord to make steaks or roasts.
The trash bin recommendation would allow hunters to dispose of carcasses, including those of animals that may have the disease but have not been tested.
Tom Hauge, wildlife director for the state Department of Natural Resources, said trash bins are already available for disposal of deer carcasses in the eradication zone (the 411-square-mile area southwest of Madison) and management zones, though not every deer registration site has one.
Each county surrounding the eradication zone has one drop-off site for deer carcasses, he said. Inside the eradication zone, people can dispose of deer at three registration sites.
"Out state, most of the folks already have disposal options available to them," Hauge said, explaining why trash bins haven't been set up all over the state.
In addition to its recommendations, the society's report also downplays the possibility that chronic wasting disease could jump to people, stating that there is "no scientific evidence" that the disease can be transmitted to humans. At the same time, however, it noted that because of the long latency period for the disease, "the final answer will remain uncertain until more data is developed. The potential for human transmission of the CWD cannot yet be determined with certainty."
"There is no need to panic," said Ayaz Samadani, a member of the society's chronic wasting disease task force and a family practice physician in Beaver Dam. "We have not seen a case of CWD in people. We wanted to have a report that was not alarming."
Samadani, who has hunted deer for the last 31 years, says he has seen a lot of anxiety among his deer hunting patients.
"People walk in every day and ask me if I'm going hunting," he said.
Samadani said he plans to hunt again this year, but he wants to wait for the results of chronic wasting disease testing in his county.
As part of its plan to see if the disease has spread to the wild deer herd outside the eradication zone, the state plans to test 500 deer in nearly every county in Wisconsin.
If no deer or only one deer tests positive in a county, then it probably would be OK to eat the venison, he said.
"If there are two or five or 10, then I'd worry," he said.
The state medical society report differed in tone from at least a couple of other recent reports on the risk of chronic wasting disease to humans.
For instance, the Medical Society of Milwaukee County's report lists several studies and reports suggesting that there may be a link between chronic wasting disease and human health.
The society also pointed out that in Great Britain it took more than 20 human cases before scientists could definitively determine that mad cow disease had jumped to people.
Earlier this week, a paper published in a neurology medical journal concludes that "the most reasonable assumption" was that the disease can be transmitted to some people who consume tainted meat.
The paper says it is likely that humans are as susceptible to chronic wasting disease as they are to mad cow disease.
The paper's author, Patrick Bosque, a Denver neurologist, said he believed the risk of chronic wasting disease to people was being underplayed.
"For now, practical measures to limit human exposure to . . . CWD infected deer and elk should be improved," he wrote.