CWD Health Warning: Do NOT Trust Wisconsin Health Officials

October 3, 2002 Commentary by John Stauber, co-author, Mad Cow USA at

The article above reports that: "Several people asked Wednesday about the safety of eating venison. 'If there's a risk, and that's a big if, it is profoundly low,' said James Kazmierczak, an epidemiologist with the state [of Wisconsin] Division of Public Health.

What? The World Health Organization says that no part of any such infected animal should be consumed by people or other animals. And, without a reliable test, there is no way now to be sure whether a Wisconsin deer is infected. The 4 1/2 year old buck killed in Central Wisconsin for $4,000 on a game farm was a beautiful specimen -- but turned out to have CWD.

The state of Wisconsin is not dishing out sound scientific medical advice, its peddling cheap public relations that is obviously part of the state's effort to ridicule risks and get people buying state licenses, killing deer, eating venison or dumping it on the poor in food pantries.

Below is Rob Zaleski's column in the Madison Capital Times April 2, 2001, 11 months before it was announced that CWD was in Wisconsin. He reports then on how Kazmierczak's colleague Mary Proctor tried to manage press coverage of the highly suspicious CJD death of Mary Riley, a 43 year old mom and venison eater in the Waupaca area.

Is the Centers for Disease Control now investigating Riley's death? No!

It turns out that the ONLY suspicious deaths that CDC is currently investigating in Wisconsin are the 2 CJD deaths of northern hunters that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported this summer.

All other deaths are the domain of the state, which as we can see from these articles and quotes is engaged in a PR campaign to deny risks. Zaleski's column is reprinted below and shows that even before CWD appeared, state officials were belittling concerns of CJD deaths in the state.

Bottom line: Do not trust state health officials on CWD risks, they are engaged in PR rather than the protection of public health

John Stauber, co-author, Mad Cow USA


Capital Times, The (Madison, WI) Published on April 2, 2001

Byline: Rob Zaleski It will be months - probably years - before Glenn Riley recovers from the recent grisly death of his 43-year-old wife, Mary.

He knows it and accepts it - and, frankly, would prefer not to talk about it. His wife was diagnosed with sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease - a rare illness similar to the human form of mad cow disease known as variant CJD - at the Marshfield Clinic last fall and she essentially went mad, losing all control of her physical and mental functions, before her death Jan. 6.

I wrote about her harrowing demise a few weeks later but did not identify her by name, because Glenn Riley and his two teenage sons were worn out from the ordeal and didn't want any more publicity.

But Riley, who runs a tavern near Shawano and happens to be my wife's stepbrother - as I noted in the column - now feels compelled to speak out.

For two reasons.

Since his wife's obituary and a short story on her death appeared in The Post-Crescent, Appleton, he's heard from three other families in Wisconsin who have lost loved ones to the disease - including a man whose uncle in Oshkosh died Dec. 2.

So while Riley can appreciate why government officials are going to great lengths to assure U.S. residents that there hasn't been a single death in this country linked to the human form of mad cow - as opposed to the United Kingdom, where 90 people have died from it - he wonders if they aren't understating the possibility that it might already be here.

Or if sporadic CJD - which researchers say strikes about 250 people a year in the United States - might be becoming more widespread than experts believe.

And the second reason Riley's decided to speak out?

He's miffed.

Shortly after his wife's death, he heard from friends that news director Jack Barry of WDUX radio in Waupaca had interviewed Mary Proctor, chief of the state Department of Health and Family Services' communicable disease epidemiology section, regarding Mary Riley's death. Those friends - and Barry - say Proctor seemed skeptical that Mary Riley had actually died of sporadic CJD, since the disease is so rare.

Why, Glenn Riley wants to know, would Proctor take such a stance - particularly since he received a copy of the autopsy confirming that his wife died of the illness?

Proctor, contacted last week, denied that she'd been skeptical and said that because CJD is not monitored on the state level, she has no idea what caused Mary Riley's death.

She also pointed out that people can write anything they want on a death certificate. "You could say a person died of heart failure or an in-grown toenail."

When I suggested it certainly sounded like she was skeptical, she denied that was the case and snapped, "This conversation is over. And if you quote me I'll sue you."

Judd Aiken, a CJD specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, seemed taken aback when told of Proctor's response. In fact, Aiken says, he himself has received a "fair number" of e-mails from Wisconsin residents who have lost family members to sporadic CJD, which leads him to wonder if perhaps the state should start tracking the disease.

(The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta says its most recent data on sporadic CJD shows that 240 people died of the disease in the United States in 1998, including six in Wisconsin.)

Aiken emphasizes that he and other researchers don't want to come off as alarmists, for obvious reasons. At the same time, he says, the ongoing tragedy in the United Kingdom makes it critical that researchers come up with a cure.

He also says his heart goes out to those who have watched a loved one succumb to this truly horrible disease.

"And then to find out that the scientific and medical communities can't tell you what the cause was - it's gotta be tough," he says. "I mean, I'm sure they're all looking for some sort of closure.

"And right now, we can't give them that."

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