Cory Anderson: Stalking a deer killer
As a lifelong hunter and an environmental health graduate student concentrating in infectious diseases, Cory Anderson harbors a passion both personal and professional when it comes to chronic wasting disease, or CWD.
“Everyone hunts,” says Anderson of his hometown of Elroy, Wisconsin. “The county right below mine is a hotspot for CWD. It was found in the early 2000s.”
So far, CWD has not been observed to jump from a cervid to a person. But because the potential is there, and CWD remains incurable and spreads easily, Anderson has devoted himself to keeping the disease at bay and out of the human population.
A PhD student of Regents Professor Michael Osterholm—School of Public Health faculty member and director of the U of M Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP)—Anderson was studying CWD in early 2020 when he was thrust into the COVID-19 information blizzard, sorting the good from the questionable to help his famous adviser chart the pandemic’s course. And that work continues.
“I never would have envisioned I’d work for Mike during his probably biggest public health challenge,” Anderson muses. “It’s been a front row seat.”
With CWD as with COVID-19, Anderson plays a role central to One Health efforts: ensuring that people involved in diverse aspects of a health issue have a common, reliable data set. Only this time, the ambiguity of CWD’s potential effects on humans adds a new dimension.
Whether in the hunting community or with agencies that manage the disease, Anderson says it can sometimes be challenging to get people to talk about the possibility of transmission to humans. But he and Osterholm want people to make informed choices.