The Chronic Wasting Disease bill would add millions in research funding

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Chronic Spinal Disease Research and Management Act. The bill, HR 5608, was introduced just two months ago, on Oct. 18. It went lightning fast.

Chronic Wasting Disease has haunted wildlife managers since the 1960s, when it emerged in captive Colorado mule deer. It made its way into our wild deer population in the 1980s and has since been found in numerous states and Canadian provinces.

We talk about CWD a lot here in New York, despite the fact that we don’t know of any cases of the disease in our captivity — on hunting grounds or deer farms — or in our wild white-tail herd, because we’ve managed to keep it at bay. CWD was discovered in New York State in 2005, but no new cases have been discovered since then due to the success of the New York State Interagency CWD Risk Minimization Plan, a joint effort of the Department of Environmental Conservation and Agriculture and Markets.

By way of background, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture reports that CWD is an infectious, degenerative disease of animals in the Cervidae family, which includes moose, deer, and moose, etc. The disease causes brain cells to die, ultimately leading to the death of the affected animal.

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Unfortunately, the disease can go unnoticed in an infected animal for months and sometimes years. That is a problem. CWD is a member of a group of diseases known as Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies or TSEs. TSEs include a number of different diseases that affect animals or humans, including bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or “mad cow disease”) in cattle, scrapie in sheep and goats, and Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (CJD), variant CJD, Kuru, fatal familial insomnia and Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker syndrome in humans. Unlike other infectious diseases, TSEs are not caused by bacteria or viruses, but rather by a naturally occurring protein that becomes infectious. Because there is no known treatment, it is fatal.

The Chronic Wasting Disease bill would add millions in research funding

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