Campaigning for fellow GOP candidates was not the only reason Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson came back to Wisconsin just one day before today’s election.

While in Sheboygan at the Gander Mountain store Monday morning, campaigning for 9th Senate District candidate Joe Leibham, R-Sheboygan, and Gov. Scott McCallum, Thompson also announced that the Food and Drug Administration will commission two extensive studies to assess human health risks of chronic wasting disease.

Fears surrounding chronic wasting disease may limit the number of hunters who will take part in the state’s nine-day gun season later this month.

Hunting is part of Wisconsin culture, Thompson said, which is why it is important to respond to the disease that is showing up in the state’s deer herd.

“We don’t have all the answers yet, but we’re working very hard to come up with solutions both in Washington and here in Wisconsin,” Thompson said.

The studies will be done across the country in deer and elk herds to determine if chronic wasting disease is transmissible from animals to humans, Thompson said. If it can be transmitted, the studies will also examine the possible human health effects, he said.

Thompson said they will also identify areas where intervention by Health and Human Services agencies could substantially lower the chance of chronic wasting disease’s potential risks.

“This is something we must do because our hunters and families must know if CWD is a threat to our food supplies and our way of life,” Thompson said. “This is why we will aggressively pursue this research and provide assistance to the states combating and fighting CWD.”

The studies come one week after the Centers for Disease Control awarded Wisconsin a $93,000 grant to monitor and have a surveillance of potential human risks related to chronic wasting disease, Thompson said.

Overall, Thompson said, Health and Human Services has proposed spending more than $29.2 million in fiscal year 2003 to expand research efforts to fight the growing threat of prior diseases.