The other day I was sent an article and the link to that article found at “Western Cowman.” The article, “Time to Cry Wolf – Damaging Impacts of Predator Diseases on Wildlife, Livestock and Humans.”, was written by Heather Smith Thomas. It contains valuable information and is a good piece that helps to sum up the difficulties being realized now here in the United States about diseases carried by and perpetuated by wild canines, i.e. mostly coyotes and wolves. I have also provided on this website, under “Wildlife Diseases”, both Echinococcus granulosus and Neospora Caninum, a link to this article.
I read the article and then reread the article. I left it for a day or two and then reread it a third time and studied it a bit closer. In it I discovered some information that has come up before and has been the cause of a bit of controversy and confusion. It shouldn’t be. As part of my research into this, I contacted Dr. Delane Kritsky, a parasitologist at Idaho State University. I sent him the article and highlighted the part that bothered me. Here is that part:
Check the vital organs of big game, looking closely for small white or reddish balloon-shapes that might be cysts. If there are any, be careful not to puncture them. The fluid from one of these cysts can be dangerous, especially if the gunshot wound penetrated an infected organ. Ingestion of Hydatid cyst fluid can cause development of these cysts in humans.(emboldening added as I did in the copy I sent to Dr. Kritsky.)
Dr. Kritsky’s response to this was: “Again, I don’t know of any reports of persons becoming infected from ingesting or handling cysts (or their contents).”
I had previously, in February of 2013, sent Dr. Kritsky a copy of a report I had received from Clay Dethlefson of the Western Predator Control Association. That report is made available on this website.
In that report, Dethlefson states:
Fact–Humans get secondary Hydatid Cyst from internally located bursting and/or seeping Cysts.
Too, in the case of humans (hunters, butchers, etc.) it is not only feasible but it is truly possible for people to get Hydatid Cysts from an ungulate’s exposed Hydatid Cysts. This occurs when Hydatid Sand from a Cyst that has burst and/or is seeping comes into contacted with a human’s transmission means, and thereafter, this Hydatid Cyst Fluid (with viable Protoscolices) enters external body orifices. Transmission by hands or by having Sand surge or gush in some other manner into external orifices of the body are such means; hence, Cysts do not occur just from direct involvement with E.g. Eggs.
At that time Dr. Kritsky responded that the information was true that this can happen but emphasized that, “there is no danger in becoming infected just by handling (or eating) a cyst that might have been present in a harvested animal.”
As a confirmation, is the reason I once again contacted Dr. Kritsky about any dangers. The object here is not to dispute anyone’s claims or find fault with reports and statements. The goal is to pass on to the many hunters, trappers, fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts as much fact about disease dangers as can be assessed.
As part of my email to Dr. Kritsky, I asked a couple more questions. Here are those questions and Dr. Kritsky’s answers are within quotes.
Question One: How dangerous is rupturing a cyst in a deer, moose or elk to humans?
Answer: “I wouldn’t hesitate to handle a cyst (ruptured or not).”
Question Two: As far as eating the meat, cooking should take care of any threats, shouldn’t it?
Answer: “Two cysts, adults and eggs, are easily killed with heat.”
It appears that we are dealing with possibilities and probabilities. According to both of these sources, Dethlefson and Kritsky, it is possible that a ruptured hydatid cyst found in a human and a wild ungulate (deer, moose, elk, etc.) can result in secondary hydatid cysts occurring. However it appears as though the probability is quite low. The individual must weigh the risks based on factual information.
In this regard I queried Dr. Kritsky about taking precautions. His answer was, “I suppose it doesn’t hurt to take precautions–after all, nothing is definitively correct in science–we are always disproving ideas(and never prove them).
It has always been my content that outdoor sportsmen, before they can make responsible decisions on what risks they are willing to take, have to have the facts and understand them in order to do that. While this discussion has been mostly about the threat of contracting Hydatid disease from a ruptured, exciting cyst, sportsmen need to understand that the greatest danger comes from the risk of ingesting the tiny eggs found in canine feces, a product that dots the landscape by the millions, perhaps billions.
There are warnings published in the “Time to Cry Wolf” article and the precautions all of us should take when living in and being in the outdoors where Echinococcus granulosus exists. For your own safety, I recommend following those recommendations.