Colorado veterinarian wants CWD test stopped

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Colorado veterinarian wants CWD test stopped

Experiment trying to learn if disease can jump species

By Rocky Mountain News Staff

COLORADO SPRINGS -- The Fort Collins experiment to see whether deer can spread chronic wasting disease to cattle should be stopped immediately, state veterinarian Wayne Cunningham said Friday.
Speaking before a group of Colorado elk farmers, Cunningham said the Division of Wildlife experiment might spread the disease, with a devastating impact on the cattle industry.

He said he shared that opinion with a committee of the Colorado Cattleman's Association.

The Fort Collins facilities are where chronic wasting disease was discovered in the 1960s, and some researchers believe it may have originated there -- possibly transmitted from sheep infected with scrapie.

Scrapie, chronic wasting disease and mad cow disease are all forms of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy.

The diseases are believed to be caused by a mutant protein called a prion found in the brain. In the United Kingdom more than 4.5 million head of cattle have been killed to tame an epidemic of mad cow disease.

There is no evidence that chronic wasting disease is transmitted to humans. However, the same was said of mad cow disease when it was detected in 1986. A decade later scientists announced that it could infect humans.

Cunningham said he is fearful that the Fort Collins experiment could produce a new strain of a prion disease.

The meeting was about proposed regulations by the Colorado Department of Agriculture that would put restrictions on elk and deer coming into Colorado. Most of the elk ranchers appeared to agree with the proposals.

Eleven cases of chronic wasting disease have been detected at nine Colorado elk farms.

November 17, 2001
 

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