The US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is stepping up efforts to determine whether Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a fatal brain disease spreading rapidly in deer and elk throughout North America, could pose as great a risk to human health as "mad cow" disease. Two new studies announced November 4 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and another set of inquiries recently commissioned by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will focus on how likely the disease is to jump species barriers among animals and even to humans.

So far, necropsies of hunters whose deaths raised suspicions of CWD infection have returned negative results. However, concerns persist and CWD has already been found in at least 10 states and parts of Canada. Up to 15 percent of mule deer in herds ranging across northern Colorado and southern Wyoming have the disease, according to Greg Raymond at the...

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