Many of you have likely heard the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Nothing could be truer than the picture that inspired this week’s blog. Today we celebrated a milestone birthday for a man some of us would call a mentor and many of us would call a friend. As soon as I took the picture at lunch I knew it was going to be a muse for this week’s blog. Do I go with the obvious and talk about the perils of getting older and dealing with a weakened immune system? It would work for a topic as influenza and several other respiratory viruses are still widely circulating. Do I go with the “ick factor” as everyone around our table winced and wondered about the chance of our colleague getting lice from a hat that has not likely ever been cleaned and/or disinfected?
I could, but as you know in recent years I have become more involved with infection control within the animal health industry. I grew up on a farm so livestock and wildlife have always been a part of my life. It was like the stars aligned. When I got back to my desk the first email I saw was one from the US Animal Health Association with an article on investigating ELK carcasses for disease. EUREKA! The last several months several of my news feeds have been buzzing over Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).
Now do you get the title? Wasting Disease…..you should be ashamed if you thought otherwise….
Whether you’re in human health or animal human markets, we have all heard of Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSE’s) caused by prions. Mad Cow Disease (or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) may be the one that many people recognize due to the epidemic in the late 1980’s in the UK and subsequent tie to cases of humans diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease.
Chronic wasting disease like BSE or CJD is a progressive, fatal, degenerative disease of the brain ungulates (elk, mule, deer, and white-tailed deer). Similar to all TSE’s, it can be years before an animal shows symptoms. Eventually, the “wasted” animals will exhibit loss of condition, excessive salivation, trouble swallowing, difficulty judging distance and changes in behavior. The exact mechanism of transmission is unclear, but we do know that CWD can spread from animal to animal and females can pass the disease to their offspring. There is no evidence that CWD can affect other animals, but to be on the safe side, the WHO advises against allowing any meat source possibly infected by prions into the human food system.
Regardless of what wasting disease we may come across, the long and the short of it is that infection prevention is an important aspect of our lives to keep both humans and animals healthy! If your birthday is coming up, be sure to celebrate, but think twice before you put a “moose” hat on!