Mad Deer Epidemic in Western US Poses
Human Health Threat

Monday, May 8, 2000

CONTACT: Jennifer Kelly or Amy Leska, EMS 202/463-6670

U.S. Government Reseachers Find "Mad Deer Disease," Like Mad Cow Disease,
Can Infect Normal Human Brains

Public Health and Farming Groups Demand FDA Action To Protect Humans and
Animals from Fatal Disease in U.S.

Washington, D.C.-- Public health advocates are demanding that the Food and
Drug Administration close loopholes in animal feed regulations to prevent
the spread of U.S. mad cow-type diseases -- now at epidemic levels in
Western deer and elk -- that might infect people who eat meat.

In a letter sent today to the FDA, the Center for Food Safety (CFS), the
Humane Farming Association and families of U.S. victims of the human
version of mad cow disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), are demanding
new efforts to protect public health and food safety. The FDA was asked to
respond to a legal petition filed in January 1999 that would change U.S.
animal feed regulations to prevent the spread of U.S. mad cow-type diseases
already occurring in deer, elk, sheep and humans, and suspected in pigs and

Under current FDA regulations, animals known to be infected with mad
cow-type disease such as deer, elk and sheep, can be legally fed to pigs,
chickens and pets, which in turn can be rendered and fed to cows. Billions
of pounds of slaughterhouse waste in the form of rendered animal
by-products are fed to U.S. livestock every year as fat and protein
supplements, despite this practice being the known route of transmission of
British mad cow disease.

A fatal "mad deer" disease called chronic wasting disease is occurring at
epidemic levels in deer and elk in Western states and on game farms, CFS
legal director Joseph Mendelson wrote in the letter to the FDA. This may
already be claiming human lives as is suggested by the alarming appearance
of unusually young victims ofCJD.

Today at the first CJD Foundation conference in Miami, government
researcher Byron W. Caughey, Ph.D., announced that in laboratory tests mad
deer disease from deer can infect human brain tissue at a rate similar to
British mad cow disease. In Britain, 56 people have died of human mad cow
disease, the death toll is climbing and some scientists suspect it will
claim hundreds of thousands of lives in the decades ahead.
Caughey'sresearch on U.S. mad deer disese was conducted at the
National Institutes of Health Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton,
Montana, and has not yet been published.

The most recent suspected victim of U.S. mad deer disease is Jay Dee
Whitlock II of Oklahoma, who died of CJD on April 7, 2000. Whitlock, 28,
was an avid deer hunter and venison consumer.He is the second young hunter
to die of CJD in the past year.

John Stauber, co-author of Mad Cow USA and a speaker at the CJD Foundation
conference, said, "The announcement that U.S. mad deer disease can infect
the human brain, and that it happens at a rate similar to British mad cow
disease, is extremely disturbing. A deadly human dementia might be already
spreading from deer and elk into hunters in Western states, and the
policies of the FDA and other agencies are completely inadequate to protect
public health."
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