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Scientists To Address Human Health Concerns Over Chronic Wasting Disease

Mule deer.
Mule deer.

Across the country there’s growing concern that Chronic Wasting Disease, found in wildlife, might someday spread to humans. Scientists speaking Thursday, April 11 in Hamilton will address some of the public’s uncertainty and concern head-on.

Researchers from the Bitterroot Valley-based Rocky Mountain Laboratories and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will update the public on CWD in Montana.

The first cases in Montana were confirmed in mule deer south of Billings in 2017. Experts will talk about how the state is managing the spread of the brain-rotting wildlife disease and what research is being done on its risk to humans.

Brent Race is a staff scientist for Rocky Mountain Laboratories, a federally-funded high level infectious disease research center in Hamilton. 

"So the public will learn not only what's happening with wildlife management," says Race. "But also are they at risk of contracting CWD should it enter the deer and elk populations where they potentially hunt and interact."

CWD is highly contagious and deadly to deer, elk and moose. Since the disease first cropped up in Colorado a few decades ago, Race says his lab has studied the potential for CWD to be transmitted to humans.

One of the biggest concerns is whether hunters who eat infected venison are at risk of getting the disease.

Race says there’s a lot of misinformation out there, particularly because of CWD’s similarities to Mad Cow Disease.

"It is unfortunate that there’s misinformation and it can be confusing to the general public," says Race. "We would love to clarify some of those questions that might be looming.”

Thursday night’s talk is free and open to the public. It will take place at 7 p.m. at the Performing Arts Center at Hamilton High School.

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