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New Threat: Deer Disease Could Spread to Humans, Demands Urgent Response, Says Expert

New evidence on the potential of chronic wasting disease to infect people should bring a co-ordinated federal response, advises a former top Health Canada scientist.

Paul Sockett, who served as director of the former Foodborne, Waterborne and Zoonotic Infections division at the Public Health Agency of Canada for 11 years, also called for more resources to deal with the highly contagious disease that has spread to wildlife populations of deer, moose and elk in Saskatchewan, Alberta and 24 U.S. states.

At an international gathering on prion diseases earlier this year, Canadian scientists revealed that macaque monkeys, a primate species closely related to humans, can develop the disease after being fed a diet of infected deer meat.

For years scientists thought it highly unlikely that chronic wasting disease, a prion-caused disease, could be transferred to humans who eat venison. Prions are infectious, misfolded proteins.