Scientists fear "zombie deer" disease is spreading to …


Experts told state capitol legislators that chronic wasting should be treated as a public health problem and that human cases would be likely to be "documented in the coming years".

The disease, sometimes referred to as CWD, causes infected animals to stumble, drool and become aggressive toward the human beings they once feared. This is what is called "zombie deer disease" because once infected, deer lose weight and become apathetic, among other strange behaviors. It is said that it is impossible for hunters to know when a deer has MDC. The neurological disease affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose.

The most frightening thing about this is however not the similarity between animals and zombies, it's the fact that it's an incurable prion disease, said the website Popular Science in a recent report. This means that it is progressive and neurodegenerative.

The human link

To be clear, no cases of chronic wasting have been reported in humans, said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Still, said Osterholm, one must be careful, go ahead. Scientists do not want the disease to spread or affect people, he told Capitol in the state of Minnesota last week.

"It is likely that human cases of chronic debilitating disease associated with the consumption of contaminated meat will be documented in the coming years," Osterholm said in comments published by USA Today. "It is possible that the number of human cases is substantial and not an isolated event."

CWD is deadly and has affected the deer population in at least 24 states and two Canadian provinces (scroll down for a complete list).

What to do about it

No vaccine or treatment is available at the moment. According to published reports, the MDC is transmitted from one animal to another and also through drinking water or contaminated food.

Some states have begun to develop preventative measures to control the spread of the disease. In North Carolina, anyone carrying animals from the deer family – as parts of carcasses – in the state must comply with the regulations regarding processing and packaging. In Indiana, the state is monitoring cases, although testing is not mandatory, reported USA Today.

In some counties of Indiana, state officials are asking hunters to have their deer caught tested for the disease.

Other things to know

"Meanwhile, if you are hunting (or eating meat that others have been looking for) in one of the infected areas, the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) does not necessarily say that you can not eat your venison, "the popular Scientific Report reads. "They recommend not to eat animals that look sick or act strangely and to minimize contact with the organs (especially the brain and spinal cord). You can also test the meat by contacting your local wildlife authorities, and it's up to you to decide if the risk is worth it – it's an unexplored territory. "

CWD, for what it's worth, is not quite new. It was discovered in 1967.

Where was it found?

Depending on where you get your information, CWD is in 24 or 25 US states. Here is a list from a fact sheet on parks and wildlife in Texas:

  • Texas
  • Michigan
  • Virginia
  • Colorado
  • Wyoming
  • South Dakota
  • Nebraska
  • Montana
  • Wisconsin
  • New Mexico
  • Minnesota
  • Oklahoma
  • Illinois
  • Utah
  • New York
  • West Virginia
  • Kansas
  • Missouri
  • North Dakota
  • Maryland
  • Iowa
  • Pennsylvania
  • Ohio
  • Mississippi
  • Arkansas

Graham Media Group 2019

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