Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurodegenerative illness of deer and elk. It is characterized by accumulations of abnormal prions -- forms of proteins -- that differ in shape from normal prions, which occur naturally in the brains of deer and elk. The abnormal prions are very difficult to destroy. They can survive many traditional sterilization techniques, including gamma and ultraviolet radiation. While they don't have DNR nor RNA, they are able to transform normal proteins to their own image, creating sponge-like holes in the brain. Because of their long incubation periods, prion diseases have been mistaken for "slow viruses."
There is no evidence that the disease passes to humans, according to the World Health Organization. To reduce the risk of exposure, the following guidelines are recommend for removing prions from venison.
Wear rubber or latex gloves. Do not use household knives or utensils. Remove all internal organs and minimize contact with these organs. Clean knives, counters, and equipment of residue and disinfect with a 50/50 solution of household chorine bleach and water and dry. Use disinfectant to soak knives for one hour.
Cutting and processing
Do not cut into or through bones. Do not cut through the spinal column, expect to remove the head. Use a knife designated only for that purpose. Bone out the meat and remove all fat and connective tissue -- the weblike membranes attached to the meat.
Never eat a deer's brain, eyeballs, spinal cord, spleen or lymph nodes. The lymph nodes are lumps of slimy gray, yellowish-brown or tan tissue found next to organs or in fat and membranes. Most are removed during normal gutting of a deer.
Discard the hide, brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils, bones and head in landfill or by other means available in the area.
Keep in mind that CWD had not been found in free-ranging deer in Minnesota. Terry Kreeger, a CWD expert in Wyoming, points out that people have been hunting and consuming CWD-infected deer for decades without a single example of any harm to humans. That's because the disease infects the neural tissue, not the muscle or meat tissue.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.