Proposed bill would require study of chronic wasting disease

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) A bill proposed by a U.S. senator from New Mexico would coordinate federal and state efforts to research chronic wasting disease.

The discovery of an infected mule deer on White Sands Missile Range prompted Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., to propose the bill.

The deer was killed by game wardens in March. Tests revealed New Mexico's first case of chronic wasting disease, a neurological disorder that is always fatal in elk and deer.

Chronic wasting disease is related to bovine spongiform encephalopathy or mad cow disease. The disease causes animals to grow thin as it destroys their brains. It is not known to spread to cattle or people, but scientists say that cannot be ruled out. It has no cure and no inoculation, and animals must be killed to be tested.

Bingaman's bill also asks for research into monitoring the disease and preventive measures.

The bill, signed by a bipartisan group of senators, asks Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman to come up with ''new and innovative programs'' and to fund wildlife and agriculture agencies studying the disease.

Bingaman also cosponsored legislation to appropriate $25 million for field and laboratory research on the disease.

Although the disease has recently been linked to shipping, it has been present in the wild in Colorado and Wyoming for years. Wisconsin, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Montana and Saskatchewan, Canada have also had cases.

The New Mexico case is hundreds of miles south of what had been thought to be the southernmost spread of the disease among wild deer, in Jefferson County, Colo., near Denver.

The state last Tuesday declared an animal health emergency because of the chronic wasting disease case, and restricted the importation of live deer and elk.

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