Facts and opinions to consider about CWD
I recently read an interview with Dr. James Kroll of North American Whitetail and his thoughts on chronic wasting disease.
Over the course of the interview, Dr. Kroll mentions that many of the recent stories concerning CWD in deer have been written in a startling manner, most likely done for headlines. He points out the fact that CWD has been around, that we know of, for about 50 years, but recent articles often lead people to believe it has just come on the scene.
Concerning the recent news of a researcher using Louisiana State University facilities claiming that CWD is caused by bacteria rather than prions, Dr. Kroll points out that this researcher has been pushing this theory for 20 years now, but over that same time period, prion researchers worldwide reject that theory.
However, if that theory would prove correct, the statement the researcher made that a vaccine and cure could be reached within two years is more than misleading. Dr. Kroll says – “It would be grossly naïve to make such a claim.”
He explains that belief by saying the following: “Years of testing would be required for vaccine safety and immunology efficacy. Protection efficacy testing would then have to be completed, taking substantially more time. Truthfully, the entire process would take well more than two years.”
Dr. Kroll also mentions that a vaccine is not a cure, nor has there ever been one developed that protects 100 percent of a population, and even if a vaccine was developed, it would not work for wild deer herds because delivery to entire wild populations is simply impossible, as other attempts to deliver different vaccines for other wild animal populations has proved.
He says simply that such statements give false hope to the entire deer hunting industry, and turn the people involved away from known truths.
Dr. Kroll goes on to say that current research does not show or understand how prions are distorted, nor what factors produce the disease. He also says that while it appears that CWD is spreading, it cannot be known with certainty that is true because testing is spreading as well.
In his opinion, the practice of massive killing of deer has not proven to be an effective tool for stopping CWD spread, because as he says, “CWD is a frequency (not density) dependent disease.” This differs from the opinion of some state game agencies that have practiced full-bore herd reduction in relatively small areas, and their belief that it has produced positive results in stopping the CWD spread.
Dr. Kroll says there are two basic questions to ask concerning CWD. One, does it have the potential to destroy deer populations and deer hunting? And second, can humans become ill with CWD?
Although there is no proof to date that the second is true, Dr. Kroll says that irrational beliefs and unproven claims and the unreasonable reactions to the unknown would destroy deer hunting much more quickly than CWD ever could.
It is his opinion that deer still will be with us in the future, and if hunting for them declines substantially because of CWD fears, it would be because of the wholesale destruction of habitat due to overpopulation that would reduce their numbers greatly, rather than CWD.
There are plenty of opinions out there concerning CWD — many not based on facts. But to my way of thinking, rational responses about true, substantiated scientific facts will be the only way to battle this terrible disease and assure that deer and deer hunting lasts well into the future for generations to come.