CAHFS Weekly Update: Chronic Wasting Disease in a Beltrami County Deer Farm; COVID-19 Vaccine Passports; Fukushima Nuclear Plant to Release Wastewater into the Ocean
Jan Mladonicky


Chronic Wasting Disease in a Beltrami County Deer Farm

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been confirmed in a white tailed deer in a captive Beltrami County farm in April. The farm has been shut down. The positive animal originated from the same Winona County deer farm that also sourced another CWD positive deer to a Houston County farm five months before. The Winona herd is currently under quarantine. The Beltrami County farm is located within the boundaries of Ojibwe-ceded territory, where wild venison is an important food source to many Red Lake, Leech Lake, and White Earth Band members.

According to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), infected captive deer herds have previously spread CWD to wild deer within Minnesota on repeated occasions.  Disease surveillance and mitigation strategies are underway and planned to continue into the fall harvest in areas within a 15 mile radius of the Beltrami County farm.  A deer feeding ban is expected to be coming for Beltrami county. Over the next three years, Minnesota taxpayers can expect to pay nearly $1 for control efforts. 

Across the state, there are five geographical areas - now including Beltrami County - with CWD surveillance campaigns which sometimes involve mandatory testing of hunter harvested deer. CWD is a contagious fatal neurological disease in deer, elk, and moose. Animals appear clinically healthy in the early stages of disease and testing is currently only available for deceased animals. Meat from infected animals should not be eaten according to public health officials.



COVID-19 Vaccine Passports

There will not be a federal mandate for COVID-19 vaccination documentation. The private sector, however, can require proof of vaccination or “vaccine passports'' for entry into certain settings. Cruise companies such as Norwegian and Royal Caribbean along with several universities including Cornell, Duke, Rutgers, and Brown have already declared the requirement for the fall semester. Proponents believe this strategy will help ensure a safe environment, protecting  patrons and students from disease. 

Without clear direction or guidelines from the federal government, lawmakers say widespread confusion may emerge as establishments in different states come up with their own verification methods. Paper vaccine records may be accepted for some while others may use digital apps. Help is on the way. The World Health Organization has established a working group to help with the creation of standards for digital vaccination platforms and IBM and Microsoft have plans to release guides with specifications for software developers for the sharing of clinical information in either electronic or paper format. 

Opponents believe people should not be forced to show proof of a vaccine that has not yet received FDA approval. Further, some worry these passports may cause other effective public health precautions to fall to the wayside. Efthimios Parasidis, a professor at the Ohio State University College of Public Health told NPR, “it may be acceptable to have people show either proof of vaccination, proof of a negative test or proof of a recent episode with COVID, there are a lot of different options.” 

Boston Globe
Los Angeles Times


Fukushima Nuclear Plant to Release Wastewater into the Ocean

Japan plans to release more than one million tons of wastewater from the defunct Fukushima Daiichii nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean beginning in two years time.  Described as the worst nuclear disaster since Chernoble, the plant was destroyed by an earthquake and Tsunami that hit the region in 2011.  More than 19,000 people were killed.

Three of the plant’s six reactors melted down requiring the continuous circulation of water, at a rate of 170 tons per day, to keep the reactor cores cool. After undergoing a complex filtration process where most of the radioactive elements are removed - except tritium - the water is held in storage tanks. Total tank capacity is expected to be reached by 2022. 

Scientists insist tritium, an isotope of hydrogen with radioactive half life of 12 years, is only harmful to humans in large doses and poses no scientifically detectable risk with dilution. According to the international Atomic Energy Agency, tritium containing wastewater is discharged into the sea around the world and is consistent with international practice. Opposing the practice are environmental groups, neighboring countries, and Japan’s fishing industry citing concerns of tritium entering the food chain through seafood, further decimating the already troubled local fishing economy following the 2011 disaster. Wastewater release into the ocean from the Fukushima plant is expected to continue for decades.

The New York Times

Portrait of Jan Mladonicky

Jan Mladonicky

Jan Mladonicky is a veterinary public health resident at the University of Minnesota. She became interested in public health while working on basic science research at Michigan State University. Her focus shifted to Veterinary Public Health during an internship working with health surveillance programs at the Lincoln Park Zoo. While completing her DVM/MPH degree from Colorado State University, Dr. Mladonicky traveled to the rural villages of Uganda for an epidemiology field project, which solidified her career interest in One Health. Since graduation, she has been practicing small animal emergency and urgent care medicine.