Researchers say the deadly disease starts slowly but could devastate B.C.’s deer population over time after the first case was discovered in B.C. .
The concerns arose after the B.C. government confirmed two cases of chronic wasting disease found in animals south of Cranbrook.
B.C.’s Ministry of Water, Land and Resources Management said the cases were found in a mule deer taken by hunters and a white-tailed deer hit by a car.
On Wednesday, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced that laboratory testing confirmed a diagnosis of chronic wasting disease.
Debbie McKenzie, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Alberta, said the disease has the potential to decimate deer populations because infected animals are difficult to identify at first and cannot live for more than two years once infected. Says.
He said experimental data shows the disease could theoretically infect other species, including humans, but there are no examples of the disease spreading beyond the cervid family, including elk, caribou and elk. is said to be unknown.
“The important thing in the room is whether[the disease]will spread to humans,” she says.
“So far, there have been no confirmed cases of it leading to human disease, but there is experimental data that suggests it can happen.”
The British Columbia government says there is no direct evidence that chronic wasting disease can be transmitted to humans, but Health Canada and the World Health Organization say infected animals should not be eaten.
According to the report, if you witness a moose, deer, elk or caribou exhibiting symptoms such as weight loss, decreased coordination, stumbling, or general illness for no apparent reason, please contact the British Columbia Wild The animal needs to be reported to the biological health program.
The disease is spreading from region to region through the transport of carcasses and contaminated hay, the BC Wildlife Federation said in a statement.
The disease, which affects animals’ central nervous systems and causes cell death in the brain, has a “100 percent” mortality rate and no known cure.
McKenzie said the disease has been occurring in Alberta for decades and is now occurring in at least five provinces and more than 30 provinces south of the border.
She said the spread to B.C. is not surprising, given its land border with Alberta and Montana, and that more cases are almost certain.
McKenzie said the disease typically starts slowly, as it does in British Columbia.
“While the infection rate is very low, there are areas in southern and southwestern Saskatchewan where more than 80 per cent of mule deer bucks are currently testing positive (for the disease). So this is a final This will have a significant impact on deer populations.”
Margo Pybus, Alberta’s fish and wildlife disease expert, similarly said B.C.’s cases are not surprising, but disappointing given efforts to combat the spread.
“This is a slow-growing, insidious disease that takes a considerable amount of time to spread through the population,” Pybus said. “So at first you don’t see any effect, but over the course of 10, 20, 30 years, you start to see changes in the deer population.”
He said B.C. could look into Alberta and other jurisdictions to learn how authorities were trying to control the spread, including culling positive cases.
Considerable research is being done to give gaming managers better tools they can use to control the disease, Pybus says.
“We’ve made a lot of progress and we know a lot more about this disease now than we did, say, 20 years ago when it was first discovered.”
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