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Chronic Wasting Disease in Animals in U.S.

2002-9-26

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

Chronic wasting disease isinfecting large animals like deer and elk in several areas in theUnited States. The disease was first discovered innineteen-sixty-seven at a wildlife research center in the westernstate of Colorado. It was identified as transmissible spongiformencephalopathy in nineteen-seventy-eight.

Biologists believe an abnormal form of a protein causes thedisease. The protein infects tissue and spreads quickly. Chronicwasting disease causes weight loss and death in animals like deerand elk.

In the nineteen-eighties, the disease was found in wild deer andelk in Colorado and Wyoming. Wild groups of animals and deer raisedon farms in other areas developed the disease. Today, chronicwasting disease is found in at least eight American states and twoprovinces of Canada.

Biologists are concerned about chronic wasting disease because itmay be similar to mad cow disease, the common name of bovinespongiform encephalopathy. Mad cow disease can be spread to humans.The human form of the disease is called Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease.It causes brain damage that leads to death. The New York Timesreports that about three-hundred Americans become infected with thatdisease each year.

Currently, there is no evidence that chronic wasting disease canaffect humans. The United States Department of Agriculture also saysit does not believe that the disease can be spread to other kinds ofanimals.

The middle western state of Wisconsin has found thirty-one wilddeer infected with chronic wasting disease. The state has orderedthat twenty-five- thousand deer be destroyed. It wants to testanother twenty-five- thousand animals for the disease.

However, some people oppose destroying so many animals. They sayless than three percent of the deer tested for the disease had it.They say it is impossible to completely destroy the disease in thewild.

Hunting for deer in Wisconsin is a huge industry. Experts say thedisease will hurt the state's economy. Also, many people who huntfor food may have to change their way of life. Experts say thespread of chronic wasting disease may affect the tradition ofhunting in America.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by MarioRitter.