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Why Manitoba needs to enact strict anti-CWD measures

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Disease defence

Stop cervid movement and start testing harvested animals, says MWF

In the wake of new research showing chronic wasting disease (CWD) can spread to non-human primates, the Manitoba Wildlife Federation is calling for strict new measures to help keep the disease out of the province. “As far as we know, the disease is not here yet,” says MWF managing director Rob Olson, “but it’s right on our border.”

The measures include an immediate ban on the movement of all live cervids and all potentially CWD-infected carcasses, animal parts, products and exposed equipment. As well, the MWF wants “convenient, cost-free, rapid testing of all animals harvested from CWD-affected areas.” At press time, the federation was also slated to launch an information campaign in mid-August to make people aware of the threat the disease poses.

Credit: Wisconsin DNR. Chronic wasting disease kills every infected cervid.
Credit: Wisconsin DNR.
Chronic wasting disease kills every infected cervid.

Currently, CWD has been found in wild and farmed deer and elk in Alberta and Saskatchewan and 24 U.S. states. A degenerative condition characterized by chronic weight loss leading to death, the disease has long been thought to only affect cervids. A new University of Calgary study, however, has shown it can also spread to monkeys.

In the three-year study, researchers fed infected meat to five macaque monkeys, and three of them contracted CWD. “That’s a game changer,” Olson says. “It hasn’t jumped to a human yet, but this is a shocking finding.”

According to Olson, one of the scary things about the disease is that it’s seemingly impossible to cure, and once it’s found in an area, it’s unknown how long it can live in the environment. “The first sites that got it in Wisconsin still have it in the soil three decades later,” he says, noting that governments need to immediately implement strict new rules to prevent CWD from spreading further.

“From the MWF perspective, there’s just not much going on at the provincial and federal level to deal with the disease,” Olson says. “There’s a general awareness issue that needs to be dealt with.”

Learn more about the MWF’s programs and positions at www.mwf.mb.ca.

Bob Sexton

Bob Sexton

Growing up in Gander, Newfoundland, and Peterborough, Ontario, Outdoor Canada's managing editor Bob Sexton jumped at every chance to wet a line and head afield. After spending half of the 1990s working as a tour guide in Latin America, he completed a Bachelor of Journalism from Ryerson University in 2001 and was hired on as Outdoor Canada's assistant editor. Since joining the magazine, he has won two Outdoor Writers of Canada awards, in 2008 and 2011, and contributed to numerous National Magazine Award winning or nominated stories. Sexton is the past president of the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors.