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CDC Warns Against Exposure to 'Mad Cow'-Like Brain Diseases
Date:5/23/2011

MONDAY, May 23 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. researchers have new information about how humans are exposed to "prion" diseases, which are rare, progressive conditions that affect brain function, such as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as "mad cow disease."

The study, published in the June issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, found that eating wild deer meat (venison) is one of the most common ways people are exposed to these serious, debilitating diseases.

"While prion diseases are rare, they are generally fatal for anyone who becomes infected. More than anything else, the results of this study support the need for continued surveillance of prion diseases," the study's lead investigator Joseph Y. Abrams, of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a journal news release.

"But it's also important that people know the facts about these diseases, especially since this study shows that a good number of people have participated in activities that may expose them to infection-causing agents," Abrams added.

In examining the results of a 2006-2007 population survey conducted by the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet), CDC researchers were able to track how participants may have been exposed to prion diseases, including:

  • Travel to countries where bovine spongiform encephalopathy ("mad cow") is known to be widespread, including the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, France, Portugal, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain.
  • Hunting for deer or elk -- especially in regions where chronic wasting disease is considered common (northeastern Colorado, southeastern Wyoming and southwestern Nebraska).
  • The consumption of venison -- particularly deer meat obtained in the wil
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