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Chronic Wasting Disease Research

Risk Behaviors in a Rural Community With a Known Point-Source Exposure to Chronic Wasting Disease

The emergence and continuing spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a prion disease in deer and elk, has now reached 14 U.S. states, two Canadian provinces and South Korea, producing a potential for cross-species transmission of CWD prions to humans and other animals globally. In 2005, CWD spread for the first time from the Midwest to more densely populated regions of the East Coast. As a result, a large cohort of individuals attending a wild game feast in upstate New York were exposed to a deer that was subsequently confirmed positive for CWD.

In collaboration with the Oneida County Health Department (Nicholas DeRosa, Eric Faisst, John Dunn, Kenneth Fanelli and Kenneth Shilkret), a team of Binghamton University students from the Graduate Program in Biomedical Anthropology (Marta Alfonso, Heidi Gastrich, Kelsey Needham, Sarah Sunderman, Sarah Walker and Jennifer Weeks), led by Professor Ralph Garruto, set up the Oneida County CWD Surveillance project to monitor the long-term health of those exposed to the CWD-positive deer.

Our preliminary findings indicate two types of risks for those who attended the feast, a Feast Risk and a General Risk. Each is cumulative, that is, the larger the number of risk factors, the greater the risk to human health if CWD is transmissible cross-species to humans. Our long-term surveillance of feast participants exposed to CWD will continue for at least six years in order to determine if there is a health risk to humans.

Figure 1


Figure 1. Spatial distribution of CWD in the United States and Canada overlaid on a demographic map of the U.S. population. The insert map of New York state shows the Department of Environmental Conservation CWD Containment Area where the outbreak of CWD occurred. This depiction combines and updates information based on maps and data from the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, (accessed 10/15/2007), and census data from the U.S. Census Bureau's interactive online mapping program for 2006 Population Estimates (U.S. Census Bureau; 2006 Population Estimates; generated by Chris Reiber; using American FactFinder;; (15 October 2007).)

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Last Updated: 8/2/16