Minneapolis, MN (KROC-AM News) - The University of Minnesota has announced the formation of a new program aimed at responding to the growing Chronic Wasting Disease problem in the state and other areas of the U.S.

Officials say the Chronic Wasting Disease Response, Research and Policy Program will respond to the ongoing wildlife disease crisis and the potential for animal-to-human and human-to-human transmission. While there have not been any reports of human cases, a press release from the University states that numerous health agencies advise that people should not be consuming CWD-positive animals.

The head of the new program, U of M Professor and infectious disease expert Dr. Michael Osterholm believes it’s possible in the year’s ahead there will be documented cases of humans being infected by consuming meat from affected animals.

“There is an immediate and critical need for national leadership on addressing CWD, and the CWD Program establishes the University of Minnesota as both the national and international center for CWD response, research, education, and policy.”

The news release identifies CWD is a prion disease that affects deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer, and moose. It has been found in Minnesota, along with 26 other state and 3 provinces in Canada.

The CWD Program will focus on:

  • providing coordinated and proactive national leadership with government agencies and others that identifies and defines priority policy, prevention, research and community outreach issues associated with CWD in animals and its potential for animal-to-human and human-to-human transmission;
  • educating the public, particularly hunters, the medical and public health communities, wildlife scientists and managers, public policymakers and elected officials about the potential risk of human CWD infection;
  • promoting extensive, reliable and rapid CWD prion detection tests for killed cervids before the deer are processed or consumed;
  • conducting primary prevention research on limiting the potential transmission of the CWD prion to humans and between animal species.