June 19, 2019

Politics May Cause Focus on CWD Spread to be in the Wrong Places

Chronic Wasting Disease has been found in deer in Ontario Province in Canada. Some in Maine and other New England states have taken up a panic or semi-panic mode while saying and doing stupid things. One thing is for sure. Few of us know anything about the disease…even those pretending to be an authority.

As with most things like diseases that are serious, why does it seem the focus is placed on the wrong aspect of the problem? It seems an American thing to avoid the real issue and place the focus on emotional and political BS. We see this in discussions about AIDS and the Second Amendment. With AIDS, instead of addressing the immoral lifestyles that most greatly contribute to the spread of the disease, we only focus on a cure in order to permit the perpetuation of homosexuality.

In speaking of guns, Americans almost never focus on the real issue of what causes a person to resort to violent behavior that is deadly to other humans. So much effort is placed on ensuring that law-abiding citizens have their right to choose how to protect themselves taken away.

And now we see Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) sneaking up on us. Many admit that scientists don’t fully understand the disease. They have a better sense of the end result – almost – than the cause and the spread.

As is typical, with diseases such as CWD, brucellosis, Echinococcus granulosis, Neospora caninum, etc., where both wild and domestic animals can become infected and infectious, often the blame, if you will, is placed on captive animal facilities as being the culprits in the growth and spread of these diseases to the wild population of the same animals. This has never been proven as fact and is next to impossible to do so. To state otherwise is dishonest.

In an article I read in the Berkshire Eagle of Massachusetts, it was written that: “If you have regulatory authority over captive farms you could require really high fences, double fences and require tags on your deer.”

Part of the argument being expressed here is that an agriculture department will not be strict enough in regulating captive cervids and that authority should be given to fish and wildlife agencies. There is serious political corruption that exists within both departments that we should never consider one government agency as being better at regulating than another. History has shown us that fish and wildlife agencies can be just as corrupt in their wielding of authority for political reasons as any agriculture department.

By directing the focus of the problem on captive cervid ranches, we may be doing ourselves a real disservice when it comes to serious efforts to understand this disease, for without the right knowledge proper control if there is such a thing, is impossible.

For those who don’t know, I will tell you that captive cervid ranchers would put up “high fences” and “double fences” if they could afford it in order to protect their herds from the spread of disease from outside into the ranch. It’s been several years now since I last spent a great deal of time learning about elk and deer ranching, but the last time I recall discussing double fencing the cost ranged somewhere around $1 million a mile. The argument for high and double fencing is to prevent any kind of contact between captive animals and wild ones.

It is sometimes lost in these emotional discussions that ranchers absolutely do not want any disease in their herds. It’s stupid to think differently. CWD within a herd of captive elk or deer would put the rancher out of business.

Because some choose to believe that diseases like CWD originate within the fences and is spread beyond the fences through contact with other animals outside the fences, they fail to understand that it can just as easily happen in the reverse. There was a time when in areas where CWD occurs, no instances of CWD had been detected in captive cervids. That should tell us something. It seems the real issue is in regulating the import and export of captive cervids, especially across state lines.

I visited domestic elk ranches in the West a few years back and was impressed with how conscientious they were about every aspect of their business, including the threat of disease. Again I say, any serious disease will destroy that business and none of them want it.

The author of the article linked to does a pretty good job explaining to readers about how easily and quickly CWD can spread in the wild. He writes: “Deer disperse out, and in studies they have found 75 percent of yearling males will disperse from two miles on up from where they were born. Stainbrook cited that one yearling disperser in Pennsylvania, which had a GPS collar on it went over 90 miles. This could be a major contributor to how CWD can spread across the landscape. There are ongoing studies to try to determine the average distance that deer will disperse. If the average males travel four or five miles, one can estimate after 10 years how far CWD has been spread.”

Captive deer are captive, enclosed behind fences, and unable to “disperse.” It, therefore, makes a bit of sense that they are less likely to be the chief culprit in the spread of the disease. Any agriculture business needs to be responsible for disease spread and for the most part, I think that is the case. We can do many things to reduce the risk of the spread of disease, or at least perhaps slow it down, but short of a cure, there is little hope of completely stopping it. Ensuring that we keep our focus on the problem in the right places, prioritizing them from a scientific position rather than a political one will go a long way in addressing a serious disease spread.


Canines Host to Abortion-Causing Parasite

Eventually, after submitting fetuses to the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for testing, the Koenses found the cause of their herd abortion problem to be Neospora caninum, a protozoan parasite that can affect a variety of large and small animal species, including cows, sheep, deer, goats and horses. The parasite causes a disease called neosporosis, which researchers say has become a leading cause of abortion and neonatal mortality in cattle in Wisconsin, across the U.S. and around the world. In fact, studies have shown that one or more animals in at least half of the dairy and beef herds in the United States have been exposed to this disease.

According to Koens, who has researched neosporosis since his encounter with it five years ago, the Neospora caninum parasite was first recognized as a common cause of cattle abortions in the late 1980s. It wasn’t until 1998, however, that scientists discovered the connection between Neospora caninum and canines.

Source: Canines Host to Abortion-Causing Parasite


NEOSPOROSIS: Recognizing and Preventing Neospora caninum Infections

Neospora caninum is a major cause of abortions in cattle. First recognized in 1988, and linked
to dogs in 1998, this parasite causes an infection called neosporosis. Studies have shown that
at least half the dairy and beef herds in the United States have one or more animals that have
been exposed. In an infected herd, up to 30 percent of the animals may test positive, and some
cows may abort several times. With good herd management, through, you can reduce this
drain on your profits.

…These oocysts
are shed in the feces of dogs, and probably of wild canines including coyotes, foxes and wolves.
These animals become infected by eating infected animals, placentas or fetuses.<<<Read Entire Report>>>


Concern Over Disease on Domestic Elk Ranches

It amazes me the depth of ignorance and the breadth of bad information that easily become emotionally intoxicating talking points when discussing animals and disease and the role of government. Anyone who has read my work understands I have little good regard for government but I have less regard for environmental, non governmental groups that love to play god, while forcing some to play by different rules than others.

In a recent opinion piece found in the Idaho Statesman, “GUEST OPINION CHRONIC WASTING DISEASE Idaho is just not doing right by its wildlife,” by John Caywood, all this is brought to the surface.

Several years ago I worked with the Idaho Elk Breeders to help educate and get the word out about that industry and to thwart the efforts of some, led mostly by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) and special interest groups, to shut down the domestic elk industry because of trumped up charges of irresponsible ranchers and the threat of spreading disease. It appears some of the same players are back at it again using emotional clap trap to push their agendas in a misaligned direction.

Please understand that those claiming there is a threat about the spread of disease wrongly are telling people that the threat comes from domestic elk spreading disease from the source of the ranch out into the rest of the world. How ignorantly absurd and flat out wrong!

Domestic elk ranches in Idaho have never had one reported case of chronic wasting disease, as seems to be the biggest concern of the letter writer, and from the many elk ranchers I have met and communicated with over the years, they tell me they fear that their animals will contract diseases from infected wildlife, of which the Idaho Department of Fish and Game seems to be deaf and dumb about.

An honest look into the history of chronic wasting disease will show that it just doesn’t appear on a ranch out of the blue. The State of Idaho has restrictions on the importation of livestock from states where disease is in existence. The actual threat that exists in this case is that the government-cared-for wildlife will infect a domestic cervid industry that has for years proven themselves to be responsible, dedicated and disease free. It’s absurd to think elk behind fences are threatening the wild deer, elk and moose of the state of Idaho.

But if we look at who’s making the noise over this change in regulations, it’s the same players as always. The writer evokes the virtues of the Idaho Sportsman’s Caucus Advisory Council (ISCAC), which historically has been a mish-mish of different people with a gripe claiming the several thousands of members on their side that don’t really exist. In addition, ISCAC has always been the mouthpiece for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and, once again, historically IDFG has opposed every aspect of the Idaho elk ranching industry, especially the hunting ranches.

The domestic elk industry in Idaho has an immense task on their hands keeping their livestock protected from the diseases present in the wild ungulate and other wildlife populations. Chronic wasting disease has been in Idaho for several years unknown by most and it didn’t get there from the elk ranchers inventing the disease but was imported into the state via carcasses of wild game.

If there is so much concern about disease in wild game animals coming from the elk industry, consider a few simple facts. One, elk ranchers are not interested in allowing disease into their businesses. Why would they? It’s their livelihood. There is no reason they and the Department of Agriculture would reduce the amount of disease testing, if it would threaten the elk industry. Two, they have proven that they run a clean ship, not because they have been testing every elk killed for disease for the past 15 plus years but because they have done everything right to protect their livestock from the disease on the outside of the fences in addition to following the import regulations. In short, they know what needs to be done. Third, wolves are known carries of well over 30 diseases, many of them harmful to humans as well as livestock. It is a known fact that at least 2/3rds of all wild wolves in Idaho contain the Echinococcus granulosus tapeworm that can be fatal to humans and create Hydatid cysts in the organs of elk. There is at least one well-documented case of human hydatidosis in Idaho. Wolves also spread Neospora caninum, which can cause abortions and neonatal mortality in livestock. All of this spread from outside the elk ranches.

And with all of this, IDFG still denies that there is any risk of disease from wolves and continue to place their hypocritical focus on the elk industry.

Maybe it’s time that the State of Idaho is required to test every one of their wild animals before being allowed to get near an elk ranch.

Tom Remington
Largo, Florida and Bethel, Maine


Neospora caninum: Seroprevalence and DNA detection in blood of sheep from Aguascalientes, Mexico

Neospora caninum: Seroprevalence and DNA detection in blood of sheep from Aguascalientes, Mexico
A. Castañeda-Hernández, C. Cruz-Vázquez, L. Medina-Esparza


The purpose of this study was to determine the seroprevalence of anti-N. caninum antibodies, the prevalence of the parasite’s DNA in blood and to estimate the association between seroprevalence and potential risk factors in sheep herds in Aguascalientes, Mexico. A total of 324 blood samples were taken from 13 farms and tested using ELISA in order to detect N. caninum antibodies and nested PCR was used to determine the prevalence of the parasite’s DNA in blood. The association between seroprevalence and some potential risk factors was estimated. The general seroprevalence reached 5.5% (18/324; 95% C.I. 3-8), ranging between 4 to 15% with the presence of seropositive animals in 61.5% of the farms; seroprevalence in ewes was 5.2% (15/286; 95% C.I. 3-8) while in rams it reached 7.9% (3/38; 95% C.I. 2-22). The prevalence of the parasite’s DNA in blood was 25% (81/324; 95% C.I. 20-30), with a range from 7.7 to 50%, with 84.6% of the flock with at least one positive animal. Were identified as positive to both tests the 3% of the animals probed (10/324; 95% C.I. 1-5) of which nine were ewes and only one ram. The agreement between tests was k= 0.12. No association statistically significant was found between seroprevalence and the risk factors considered in this study.

*Note* – The full report is behind a pay wall.

Neospora caninum is a protozoan parasite of animals. Until 1988, it was misdiagnosed as Toxoplasma gondii. Since its first recognition in 1984 in dogs and the description of a new genus and species Neospora caninum in 1988, neosporosis has emerged as a serious disease of cattle and dogs worldwide. Abortions and neonatal mortality are a major problem in livestock operations and neosporosis is a major cause of abortion in cattle. This review is focused on current status of neosporosis in animals based on papers published in the last five years. Worldwide seroprevalences are tabulated. Strategies for control and prevention are discussed.


Neospora caninum and Wildlife

Bovine neosporosis caused by Neospora caninum is among the main causes of abortion in cattle nowadays. At present there is no effective treatment or vaccine. Serological evidence in domestic, wild, and zoo animals indicates that many species have been exposed to this parasite. However, many aspects of the life cycle of N. caninum are unknown and the role of wildlife in the life cycle of N. caninum is still not completely elucidated. In North America, there are data consistent with a sylvatic cycle involving white tailed-deer and canids and in Australia a plausible sylvatic cycle could be occurring between wild dogs and their macropod preys. In Europe, a similar sylvatic cycle has not been established but is very likely. The present review is a comprehensive and up to date summary of the current knowledge on the sylvatic cycle of N. caninum, species affected and their geographical distribution. These findings could have important implications in both sylvatic and domestic cycles since infected wildlife may influence the prevalence of infection in cattle farms in the same areas. Wildlife will need to be taken into account in the control measures to reduce the economical losses associated with this important disease in cattle farms. <<<Read the Full Report>>>