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Mad Elk Disease?

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Do you have friends who hunt for elk? You may want to start thinking up polite excuses to turn down gifts of elk meat. The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta is working with the state governments of Colorado and Wyoming to determine if chronic wasting disease, a relative of “mad cow disease” that affects elk, can be passed to humans. For years scientists have given short shrift to the idea that CWD can spread to humans. As recently as June of this year the CDC stated that the risk to humans was “low.” The CDC did note, however, that there have been unexplained outbreaks of Creutzfelt-Jakob disease, a human brain disease similar to CWD and mad cow, in Wisconsin and Washington state. Now Wyoming officials have revealed that at least one hunter in that state has died of Creutzfelt-Jakob disease since 1996. Colorado officials state that the rate of CJD deaths among hunters is no higher than in the general population here. But the northern Colorado and southern Wyoming mountains are a center of the chronic wasting disease epidemic, so you might think twice about eating elk meat from that region.

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