Quebec has known since 2017 that mad deer disease is a public danger, but it does not appear to have taken warnings from federal scientists seriously.
Health Canada notified other departments and provinces in April 2017 that the chronic wasting disease (CWD), which was detected last week at a Laurentian deer farm, “has the potential to infect humans”.
This is in line with an internal document obtained by The newspaper and prepared by the Bureau of Microbial Hazards, an entity of Health Canada.
“No tissue that may contain MDC agents or any animal parts that have shown signs of disease should enter the human or animal food chain,” write the scientists, who sound the alarm.
The disease is also known to be transmitted through faeces through contaminated soil or water.
Health Canada was already calling to alert populations at risk, in particular hunters and First Nations. But a year and a half later, no awareness campaign has been launched.
call for caution
The paper was prompted by an ongoing study at a Canadian Food Inspection Agency laboratory in Alberta, where lab monkeys became ill after consuming contaminated meat.
joined by The newspaperresearcher Stefanie Czub, who is still conducting the experiment, indicates that less than half of the 21 primates who participated in the experiment are still alive.
“No human should consume prions (the disease-causing pathogens),” she insists. She demands the utmost caution and warns hunters.
The scientist points out that an animal can appear perfectly healthy, but be a carrier of the disease, whose incubation time can be up to two years. She recommends that hunters test every catch.
To date, no human cases of MDC have been documented. However, it is not excluded that the pathogen can cross the species barrier and adapt to the human body, as the prions did at the origin of mad cow disease.
condemn the farm
To prevent an outbreak, Dr. Michael Samuel, an MDC expert at the Wisconsin Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, where the disease has been wreaking havoc for years, recommends that all cattle on the Grenville-sur-la-Rouge farm be slaughtered and let the farm be doomed.
Dr. Czub agrees. They explain that the prion is extremely resistant.
“If you don’t get rid of it quickly, you’ll never get there,” warns Michael Samuel.
But the Ministry of Agriculture (MAPAQ) indicates that it wants to continue its investigation before “eliminating an entire herd”.
“We are still analyzing cases and determining where the disease could come from,” said ministry spokesman Yohan Dallaire-Boily.
MAPAQ says it tested all animals in contact with the sick animal and all were found to be healthy.
Even after a week of quarantine, there is still no double fence to keep captive animals away from the loose ones.
What is mad deer disease?
It is a deadly disease similar to mad cow disease that is devastating deer populations in western Canada and the United States.
This disease results in rare and fatal progressive degenerative diseases of the brain.
Currently incurable, they result from the transformation of a protein into an altered form, called a prion.
The brains of humans and animals with prion disease are damaged, resulting in degeneration of the central nervous system.
Indestructible, the disease-causing protein spreads in feces, body fluids, and through direct contact. The spread can be through contaminated water or soil.
Contagious and indestructible
Scientists have so far not found any way to decontaminate a farm infected with chronic wasting disease (CWD) pathogens.
“They are extremely resilient. They can survive for years in soil and water,” warns Dr. Stefanie Czub of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
The disease can be transmitted from animal to animal. However, nothing is done to prevent deer from the Grenville-sur-la-Rouge farm from coming into contact with wild deer. The newspaper.
“I regularly see white-tailed deer at the edge of the fence in contact with the animals at Harpur Farm. I don’t know what the government is doing with this file,” said a municipal official who spoke to the newspaper on condition of anonymity.
Breeding deer… in freedom
“This summer my son was fishing along the Red River near Harpur Farms and saw a red deer raised in the open air. He has one tag in the ear. The cattle fence is not very high,” the man added.
In addition, the farm is crossed by three streams, one of which flows into a tributary of the Rio Vermelho.
“The prion is uncontrollable in water,” says researcher Stefanie Czub.
The Ministry of Wildlife will hold a press conference today at 2 pm and MAPAQ will meet with citizens at 7 pm, he learned The newspaper.
GRENVILLE-SUR-LA-ROUGE | Owners or tenants of hunting grounds in the Laurentians have decided to ban access to government agents who want to come and kill wild deer to protect the population.
“The government is going off the rails,” says Donald Forté, a hunter who owns a cabin in Boileau, Outaouais. They will kill everything with their American fighters without compensating us. We will have no more wild animals. »
Last Friday, 24 hours before the start of the season, the Wildlife Department banned hunting in part of zones 9 and 10, which lie between the Laurentians and the Outaouais.
These areas are located very close to the deer farm, where a deer with chronic wasting disease was first found in the province.
Some hours later, The newspaper revealed that Quebec had hired an American company that had proven itself in the state of New York, where the same disease was rampant, to come and kill deer.
This decision causes hunters in the affected regions to jump. “I invested a fortune and rented land to hunt. And are the Americans going to come and kill my animals? says Mr. Strong indignant.
According to him, wildlife officials have banned him from any form of hunting.
“I don’t have the right to hunt geese, bears, and I don’t even have the right to hunt traps,” says Forté.
Several hunters in the region are even considering filing a class-action suit against the Departments of Wildlife and Agriculture, both of which are involved in managing chronic diseases in deer.
Mr. Forté would like the government to include hunters in the solution.
“That’s what we want. We know our lands. We can do the work and communicate with wildlife officials,” he says.
Same observation for Marc Ballard, who also lives in Boileau and denounces the way the government manages the crisis.
“A few hundred meters from our house, people have the right to hunt, but we don’t. We are not fools. We will be happy to collaborate with the government,” she explains.
The man claims he was warned by wildlife officials not to enter his 218-acre forest and not to engage in any form of hunting there until further notice.