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Town's Venison Banquet Puts a State on Alert
NY Times ^ | April 10, 2005 | MICHELLE YORK

Posted on 04/09/2005 8:07:01 PM PDT by neverdem

VERONA, N.Y., April 7 - For years, David L. Smith cooked wild game for his Fire Department's annual fund-raising sportsmen banquet. It was his way to help out after he retired from the department's volunteer corps.

At this year's banquet, on March 13, more than 300 townsfolk sampled his dishes - the venison meatballs, chili and patties. Three weeks later, Mr. Smith was trying to forget the whole affair with a whiskey at the local V.F.W. "My wife said they'd come to get me," he said.

Through unlucky circumstance, tissue samples from a deer that one farmer donated for the banquet tested positive for chronic wasting disease, and the results were discovered after the meat had been eaten at the banquet. It is the deer version of mad cow disease, and the first documented case in New York.

Though people have become ill with mad cow disease from eating infected beef, no human is known to have become ill by eating infected venison. No one has even remotely blamed Mr. Smith. But his trepidation and dejection about the disease seemed to be felt throughout this rural area some 250 miles northwest of Manhattan, where deer hunting is part of the culture. "It's scary to a lot of people," said the V.F.W.'s bartender, Diana Dodge.

Since the disease was found, agriculture, health and environmental workers have been trying to find out how it came here and how many of the state's 10,000 deer might be infected.

The deer that tested positive was one of 18 being raised by an outdoors enthusiast, John Palmer, who lives in Westmoreland, a neighboring town.

Mr. Palmer operates a neatly kept taxidermy business in his garage, where deer mountings lined the entranceway and a black bear was still being stuffed. He sent the sample from the deer he donated as part of an annual state-mandated monitoring program - not because he was suspicious of infection.

Shortly after the first case was found, the state killed his entire herd to learn about the spread of the disease. Mr. Palmer appeared as dejected as the cook, saying with a shrug, "I'd love to comment, but I've been told by my attorney not to."

Tests later showed three other deer from Mr. Palmer's farm were also sick. "It wasn't all 18," said Jessica Chittenden, a spokeswoman for the state's Agriculture Department. "This leads us to believe it was a fairly recent introduction."

Investigators also linked the recent death of another deer to the disease. It was on land owned by Martin Proper, who lives near Mr. Palmer and obtained the deer from him.

Next week, conservationists will begin shooting 420 wild deer in the area to see if they, too, have the disease. Hubert A. Pritchard, a dairy farmer and the Westmoreland town supervisor, gave permission for hunting on his farmland, though his wife was sad about it. "I like to see the deer," said Nancy Pritchard, resting in a chair in her driveway, with a cat snuggling by her feet and a cow giving birth in the pasture across the road.

"If they take that many deer out of the area, it'll be a long time before they come back," Mr. Pritchard said. "But we don't know a lot about this disease, and I feel, err on the side of caution."

Another neighbor, Leo Wierzbicki, said he hunted every season and would eat the venison in his freezer. The Pritchards's son, James, agreed, "You don't stop eating beef because of mad cow disease."

Chronic wasting disease can be transmitted among deer through food and contact, scientists say. It is a part of a family of diseases that scientists believe are caused by a malformed protein, or a prion, that affects the brain and is always fatal.

Though the disease has not jumped between species, it is theoretically possible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people against eating infected venison as a precautionary measure.

At the National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center at Case Western Reserve University, experiments in transgenic mice are under way to determine the likelihood of the disease jumping from deer to humans, said Dr. Pierluigi Gambetti, director of the pathology center. Researchers are also trying to map out its unique characteristics, so that if it ever appears in humans, it can be easily linked to the deer disease and not to other prion diseases that kill 300 people annually nationwide.

"Prion diseases are serious issues for public health," Dr. Gambetti said, because they affect both humans and animals, are contagious and are very infectious. For example, the diseases are thought to survive on surgical tools even after sterilization, he said.

Dr. Alfonso Torres, executive director of an animal health diagnostic center at Cornell University, said little research money for prion diseases had been spent on chronic wasting disease. "There are still a lot of scientific gaps in how the diseases work and are transmitted," he said, adding that scientists learned a lot from the mad cow threat that swept through Europe.

The Oneida County Health Department notified several hundred people who may have attended the banquet, and 68 of them responded, said spokesman Kenneth Fanelli, adding, "They're not particularly alarmed or concerned."

Many were reassured that other states had dealt with this disease for decades without human infection, he said, adding, "You can't ignore the 30 years of history."

At the V.F.W., Jack Knight agreed. He had eaten the venison and was joking with Mr. Smith, the cook. "It's no big deal," he said. "What are you going to do besides slap yourself upside the head? They say there's no danger."

"It will affect attendance next year," Mr. Smith said about the banquet. "I bet we won't sell 50 tickets."


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; News/Current Events; US: New York
KEYWORDS: deer; food; foodcontamination; foodpoisoning; health; meat; prions; venison
Syracuse, NY is about 30 miles west of Verona.
1 posted on 04/09/2005 8:07:01 PM PDT by neverdem
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To: El Gato; JudyB1938; Ernest_at_the_Beach; Robert A. Cook, PE; lepton; LadyDoc; jb6; tiamat; PGalt; ..

FReepmail me if you want on or off my health and science ping list.


2 posted on 04/09/2005 8:08:06 PM PDT by neverdem (May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows that you're dead.)
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To: Clemenza; Cacique; NYCVirago; The Mayor; Darksheare; hellinahandcart; Chode; NYC GOP Chick; ...

FReepmail me if you want on or off my New York ping list.


3 posted on 04/09/2005 8:11:52 PM PDT by neverdem (May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows that you're dead.)
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To: neverdem
Since the disease was found, agriculture, health and environmental workers have been trying to find out how it came here and how many of the state's 10,000 deer might be infected.

Only ten thousand deer in the entire state?

There are likely more deer than that in Oneida County.

The NYTimes once again reveals its ignorance of reality beyond the Hudson.

4 posted on 04/09/2005 8:13:24 PM PDT by okie01 (A slavering moron and proud member of the lynch mob, cleaning the Augean stables of MSM since 1998.)
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To: neverdem

Yikes.
Mad Deer instead of mad cow..


5 posted on 04/09/2005 8:15:03 PM PDT by Darksheare (#####This tagline has been viciously run down to prevent it's escape. It has tire marks on it. #####)
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To: neverdem
one of 18 being raised by an outdoors enthusiast, John Palmer,

Now the question is, just what was he feeding these deer??

6 posted on 04/09/2005 8:17:28 PM PDT by org.whodat
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To: neverdem
Herd disease leads to herd mentality. Or lack of.

Prions may well be the next genetic stumbling stone in evolution.

7 posted on 04/09/2005 8:27:20 PM PDT by BIGLOOK (I once opposed keelhauling but recently have come to my senses.)
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To: okie01
Only ten thousand deer in the entire state?

I did a double take on that too.

DEC Releases Statistics from 2003 Deer Harvest

The total deer take in the 2003 season was slightly more than 253,000, and includes more than 107,000 bucks and nearly 146,000 antlerless deer.

8 posted on 04/09/2005 8:29:34 PM PDT by neverdem (May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows that you're dead.)
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To: neverdem
Next week, conservationists will begin shooting 420 wild deer in the area to see if they, too, have the disease.

That is a rather peculiarly precise number. They must have very exact animal censuses in those parts. What happens if they shoot 421?

9 posted on 04/09/2005 8:32:53 PM PDT by fnord (They're selling postcards of the hanging, they're painting the passports brown)
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To: fnord
I'm sure anti-hunting and animal "rights" groups would rather not kill even one deer and have the disease spread.
10 posted on 04/09/2005 8:48:41 PM PDT by endthematrix (Declare 2005 as the year the battle for freedom from tax slavery!)
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To: neverdem
"I like to see the deer," said Nancy Pritchard, resting in a chair in her driveway, with a cat snuggling by her feet and a cow giving birth in the pasture across the road.

Are NYT reporters getting paid by the word these days?

11 posted on 04/09/2005 8:51:06 PM PDT by randog (What the....?!)
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To: endthematrix

PETA would shoot them all rather than have one fall into captivity.


12 posted on 04/09/2005 8:51:10 PM PDT by HiTech RedNeck (No wonder the Southern Baptist Church threw Greer out: Only one god per church! [Ann Coulter])
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To: HiTech RedNeck

"PETA would shoot them all"

The townsfolk that is...


13 posted on 04/09/2005 8:58:32 PM PDT by endthematrix (Declare 2005 as the year the battle for freedom from tax slavery!)
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To: neverdem
can be transmitted among deer through food and contact

Dang! I love venison. I thought it was transmitted by feeding livestock ground-up remains of infected breeds.

"Food and contact" is a pisser. What's the theory? A prion found in the brain (which I always thought was self-contained area protected by the blood-brain barrier) somehow gets into the saliva (or other excretions) and is transmitted onto the free-range grazing animal's feed?

14 posted on 04/09/2005 9:26:57 PM PDT by benjaminjjones
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To: fnord

Clearly, they will have to put three back!


15 posted on 04/09/2005 9:30:01 PM PDT by Joseph of Carpentry
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To: okie01

I saw that 10,000 dear stupidity too!

Heck, even at 5-10 per sq mile, which is not at all an outlandish estimate, you're talkin somewhere in the neighborhood of a quarter of a million animals.


16 posted on 04/09/2005 9:32:49 PM PDT by djf
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To: Darksheare

They say you have to eat thousands of burgers to get CJD...the human form of mad cow disease.

Eating one or two venison steaks? I'd say the chances of any human being infected is less than miniscule.


17 posted on 04/09/2005 9:32:54 PM PDT by Happygal (liberalism - a narrow tribal outlook largely founded on class prejudice)
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To: okie01; neverdem

If deer have been spotted in Pelham Bay Park in THE BRONX, you can bet that there are more than 10,000 deer in New York State.


18 posted on 04/09/2005 9:34:12 PM PDT by Clemenza (Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms: The Other Holy Trinity)
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To: benjaminjjones
What's the theory? A prion found in the brain (which I always thought was self-contained area protected by the blood-brain barrier) somehow gets into the saliva (or other excretions) and is transmitted onto the free-range grazing animal's feed?

I tried cervid spongiform encephalopathy at PubMed. The following article was one of nine that came up. Cervid means elk or deer. You can get a lot more articles clicking on "Related Articles". A lot more basic science on prions needs to be done.

Rapid prion neuroinvasion following tongue infection.

19 posted on 04/09/2005 10:25:02 PM PDT by neverdem (May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows that you're dead.)
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To: okie01
I'd say closer to a million deer.....

I think the problem really is a over-population of deer...

there should be very generous limits to cull the herd, starting today.....

20 posted on 04/09/2005 11:11:24 PM PDT by cherry (I)
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To: neverdem
Thanks, I was going to bookmark your link, but I guess FR did away with that feature. Gawd, that makes me feel old.

I did manage to figure out how to save it in my Links profile. I am interested in this kind of stuff, so I'll probably read up on it tomorrow (after coffee, coffee, coffee).

I doesn't really matter though, most likely I'll just use it as a conversation topic with my PHd microbiologists brother and sister-in-law at our family Beach Week this summer.

'course, the last time I saw them, when I asked them for their thoughts about the most recent Mad Cow thing, they ended up arguing the more esoteric points between themselves and lost me completely (actually, my brother got a scientific P-whipin', but he and I were drinking beers and his wife was just doing ironing).

I hope they had make-up sex after wards, 'least that's the way it always worked for me when the ex bested me, LOL.

Maybe I can get something going between them this summer again :)

Their argument about prions (and a few other biology topics I brought up) are part of why I don't trust Docs.

Engineering and Pratical Application Physics has solid answers in most cases, Biology still seems to be a lot of guesswork.

21 posted on 04/09/2005 11:20:44 PM PDT by benjaminjjones
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To: neverdem
For example, the diseases are thought to survive on surgical tools even after sterilization, he said.

As I recall, prions can survive cremation as well. Tough things.

22 posted on 04/10/2005 5:40:48 AM PDT by lepton ("It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into"--Jonathan Swift)
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To: neverdem

10,000 deer? Hahahah...yeah, right! That's probably the number of deer in that particular county. More sloppy journalism. How can you believe anything that's written anymore with errors like this?


23 posted on 04/10/2005 5:44:03 AM PDT by WKUHilltopper
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To: benjaminjjones
I doesn't really matter though, most likely I'll just use it as a conversation topic with my PHd microbiologists brother and sister-in-law at our family Beach Week this summer.

wow....may I attend? :)

24 posted on 04/10/2005 5:44:59 AM PDT by lepton ("It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into"--Jonathan Swift)
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To: randog
"I like to see the deer," said Nancy Pritchard, resting in a chair in her driveway, with a cat snuggling by her feet and a cow giving birth in the pasture across the road.

Are NYT reporters getting paid by the word these days?

It's very cold in Upstate NY and there is probably still some snow on the ground. My folks have a farm up there and aren't expecting calves until the end of the month.

25 posted on 04/10/2005 5:57:36 AM PDT by agrarianlady
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To: neverdem
You wrote: "Syracuse, NY is about 30 miles west of Verona."

Not when you're an elitist snob living on a putrid rock with 16 million other morons, it ain't!

"...this rural area some 250 miles northwest of Manhattan..."

26 posted on 04/10/2005 6:52:16 AM PDT by t_skoz ("let me be who I am - let me kick out the jams!")
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To: benjaminjjones
Their argument about prions (and a few other biology topics I brought up) are part of why I don't trust Docs.

You should see us at conferences. We are a contentious lot. In fact, my first published article refuted the work of a prominent scientist in the field.

Engineering and Pratical Application Physics has solid answers in most cases, Biology still seems to be a lot of guesswork.

Biology is incredibly complicated. You can remove a gene and try to show that X pathway was disrupted, but that pathway might have fifty other genes involved, and some of those other genes might partially duplicate the effects of the deleted gene. Or you can change part of a protein structure and show a corresponding change in function, but you don't really know whether the change is scientifically significant or an artifact. It's not a simple thing like plugging a resistor into a circuit and measuring a corresponding change in current flow.

Some of us choose biology because we're not cut out to be physicists or engineers. Thank goodness there are people with different skill sets.

27 posted on 04/10/2005 6:54:30 AM PDT by exDemMom (Death is beautiful, to those who hate their own lives.)
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To: WKUHilltopper

I agree. This is just more proof that you really can't believe anything you don't see with your own 2 eyes, or hear about firsthand from someone you trust.

And this is from the New York TIMES?!?! (Well, *I* am not impressed, but...)

Shades of 1984 !!!


28 posted on 04/10/2005 6:55:50 AM PDT by t_skoz ("let me be who I am - let me kick out the jams!")
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To: neverdem
For example, the diseases are thought to survive on surgical tools even after sterilization, he said.

I assume, sterilization by autoclave? What about other means of cleaning the tools, say with phenol, formaldehyde, or some other chemical that disrupts protein structure?

29 posted on 04/10/2005 6:57:03 AM PDT by exDemMom (Death is beautiful, to those who hate their own lives.)
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To: benjaminjjones
Dang! I love venison.

I have to admit I've never tried it....came close once, though.

My cousin from Choctaw, Alabama was out visiting and praising it, so when he got home he sent a big styro full of various cuts....problem is, it took UPS or whoever close to two weeks, and it arrived a thawed bloody mess.

30 posted on 04/10/2005 7:02:43 AM PDT by ErnBatavia (I don't drink and FReep...it just looks that way)
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To: Happygal

Considering the state of NY politics.. that point may already have been crossed.
Besides, there is the mad cow of Chappaqua to consider as well.
/ bad flat joke.


31 posted on 04/10/2005 7:09:15 AM PDT by Darksheare (#####This tagline has been viciously run down to prevent it's escape. It has tire marks on it. #####)
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To: Darksheare

The prion which causes CWD in deer and elk is one tough little protein.

The protein survives temperatures up to about 800 F. (ie cooking does not kill it), is impervious to bleach (there are a few surgical tool cleaners that kill it however) and stomach acid does not stop it (ie it goes right through your stomach to your blood.)

We don't how it spreads from animal to animal. It apparently spreads much easier than BSE. It stays in the soil capable of causing infections for up to 10 years (any farm that gets an infection will stay infected indefinitely, any new deer brought in will get it.)

There have been some very suspicious cases of tranmission to humans (if you eat wild deer meat, do not eat any brain parts or backbone cuts.)

Here is the best study on transmission to humans which was done by the Centres for Desease Control (CDC). Protein types and prion markers do not match up so that transmission to humans is not proved, but there are quite a few suspicious cases.

http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/vol10no6/03-1082.htm

Eventually it will spread world-wide and the numbers of deer and elk will drop considerably until some equilibrium in nature is reached.


32 posted on 04/10/2005 7:30:20 AM PDT by JustDoItAlways
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To: exDemMom
Biology is incredibly complicated

No boubt adout it.

Hey, I like biology too. I didn't mean to criticize, I probably should have phrased my comment a little differently, (and not have thrown in the snide about Docs).

You're right, because biology is so complex, the answers don't always smack you in the forehead.

It's like the difference between stoichiometry and organic chemistry, with that silly little thing called "life" thrown into the mix. I stopped at stoch, I liked that I could get quantifiable answers. Same reason I went for engineering, not physics, where things can get pretty weird.

My sometimes plodding brain likes forehead-smacking answers, so I guess I'm not cut out to be a biologist. And yes, Thank goodness there are people with different skill sets.

33 posted on 04/10/2005 7:58:51 AM PDT by benjaminjjones
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