Chronic Wasting Disease

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is ravaging wildlife in many regions across North America. It’s part of a larger epidemic of neurological disease that is killing millions of people, wildlife and livestock around the world. Once again, wildlife are serving as the proverbial canary in a coal mine.

These sick deer are a symptom of a much bigger problem. Although there are several ways for CWD to take hold and spread, the biggest threat is being ignored. The U.S. dumps 700 million tons of infectious sewage sludge on farms, ranches, forests, parks, golf courses and school grounds every year. It’s passing prion disease from people with Alzheimer’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease to wildlife, livestock and back to humans. Chronic wasting disease is the wildlife equivalent of Alzheimer’s/CJD. Prion disease is prion disease and there is no species barrier. Sick deer, elk, moose and reindeer are further proof of the deadly and infectious nature of Alzheimer’s disease and sewage sludge (biosolids).

chronic wasting disease

CWD is part of an incurable spectrum disease called transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). The operative word is “transmissible.” Mismanagement of pathogens associated with the disease are contributing to a broader epidemic of neurological disease among wildlife, livestock and people.

TSEs include Alzheimer’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, mad cow disease and chronic wasting disease in deer. Few, if any, mammals are immune. There is no cure and there is no species barrier.

TSEs, including chronic wasting disease, are caused by a deadly protein called a prion(PREE-on). Prion disease is unstoppable. Prions defy all attempts at sterilization and inactivation. Victims can spread the disease even further via their bodily fluids and cell tissue. Victims often are contagious long before they appear sick. Their saliva, urine, blood and feces, for example, spread the pathogen further every day. Prions linger in the environment and on objects infinitely. They migrate, mutate, multiply and kill with unparalleled efficiency. Because of the dynamics, Canada has declared CWD unstoppable.

Although there are many causes and pathways contributing to CWD and the prion disease epidemic, many pathways are being mismanaged around the globe. Thanks to sewage, biosolidsreclaimed sewage water and feedlot waste, we’re recycling the prion pathogen that causes neurological disease right back into our watersheds, which we share with deer, elk, moose, livestock and other creatures that are vulnerable to prion disease. Rain, wind and irrigation spread deadly prions further everyday. Healthy wildlife are being exposed to deadly prions through food, water, air and contact with infected animals.

prion disease and TSE

Since prions are in the bodily fluids of its victims, sewage mismanagement is a top concern. Wastewater treatment plants can’t detect or stop prions. Just ask the U.S. EPA. Therefore, putting biosolids on crops and dumping sewage sludge throughout our watersheds is a very bad idea. Dumping sewage from billions of people on land and at sea creates deadly prion freeways.

Every sewage system in the world has been used by a person, if not millions of people, with Alzheimer’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Sewage systems have become prion incubators. Biosolids, water reuse and sewage sludge disposal have made them potent prion distributors. The waste from feedlots is likely contributing to the problem as well.

Although there are multiple causes of prion disease, including Alzheimer’s disease and CWD, reckless policies are contributing to an environmental nightmare. Sick deer, elk, moose and other wildlife and marine life are just a symptom of a much bigger problem. Putting these Pandora-like pathogens back in the box is impossible. However, that is not a license to dump them right into the lifecycle.

Since we have a global prion epidemic among people and regional ones among wildlife, it stands to reason that livestock also are impacted more than we realize. One lab study successfully transmitted prion disease to a deer from an infected cow.

prions in sewage sludge

If the reverse dynamic were ever tested, I’m sure that we could verify that cattle are vulnerable to prion disease from infected deer and other animals. One thing is for certain, there is not any proof to the contrary. All infected animals are spreading unstoppable prion infection into our watersheds. It’s time to manage the threat accordingly to protect our water supplies, livestock and crops from unnecessary prion exposure.

Read the full story about the connection between Alzheimer’s disease, chronic wasting disease and other aspects of the prion epidemic at

campaign to prevent Alzheimer's disease

Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. Alzheimer’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and the prion disease epidemic is an area of special expertise. Please contact Gary Chandler to join our coalition for reform

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