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Scientists Learn Bleach Deactivates Chronic Wasting Disease on Stainless Steel

QDMA applauds scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) for studying practical techniques that may help slow the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) and reduce human health risks – work which recently produced the discovery that a 5-minute soak in household bleach can neutralize CWD prions on stainless steel.

A major concern with chronic wasting disease (CWD) is that standard sanitizing methods fail to kill the prions that cause the illness. The good news about bleach came from a new study by NIAID led by Dr. Brent Race at their Rocky Mountain Laboratories. However, bleach only worked as a surface decontaminant; it failed to penetrate infected tissue.

“The bounty of wild venison is a primary motivation for most of the nearly 9 million deer hunters who head afield each fall,” said Matt Ross, QDMA Assistant Director of Conservation. “The majority of disease experts agree that one of the quickest ways to spread chronic wasting disease is through the movement of high-risk parts of harvested animals, so QDMA supports any research that provides real-world, practical solutions that addresses this potential source of exposure.”

For hunters who want to be cautious when handling potentially infected deer harvested in CWD management zones, the ability to decontaminate stainless steel knives, saws and other equipment is one approach to reducing potential exposure. There have been no reported cases of chronic wasting disease infection in humans, however the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend hunters in CWD zones have all deer and elk tested for the disease and wait for results before consuming the venison.

“Small solid pieces of CWD-infected brain were not successfully decontaminated with the use of bleach. This was not surprising as bleach has traditionally been used as a surface disinfectant since it has poor tissue penetration and much lower efficacy when excessive organic matter is present,” the authors concluded. “Therefore, it is very important to thoroughly clean and remove solid pieces of tissue prior to surface decontamination with bleach.”

To ensure the future of deer hunting, QDMA has identified fighting CWD as one of its top priorities. The organization has dedicated $1 million in funding over the next five years toward CWD research, on-the-ground management, and technical assistance for hunters.

About chronic wasting disease:

Chronic wasting disease is a 100% fatal disease found in whitetails, mule deer, elk and moose that is spread through direct contact with infected feces, saliva, blood, urine, carcasses and live deer. There is no vaccine or cure, and as of Sept 2019, CWD has been identified in 26 U.S. states and three Canadian provinces, as well as in Finland, Norway, South Korea, and Sweden. Eradication of CWD after it has become established in a wild deer population currently does not appear feasible with the tools available. Therefore, prevention is critical, and deer hunters in all areas can take a number of active steps to help stop the spread of CWD to new areas. Multiple scientific studies have confirmed slow population declines over time in whitetails, mule deer and elk populations hit by CWD.

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