'Zombie deer disease' hits wildlife in 24 states

Kenny Tucker
February 20, 2019

Chronic wasting disease, also known as "zombie" deer disease, is showing up in wildlife populations around the country and while Central Texas has so far been spared, the deadly disease could be encroaching. "It is possible that number of human cases will be substantial and will not be isolated events", he said, according to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press.

"It is probable that human cases of chronic wasting disease associated with consumption with contaminated meat will be documented in the years ahead", Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota told USA Today.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a disease that has impacted: white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose.

It is caused by misfolded proteins, or prions, which leads to the spongy degeneration of the brain, resulting in emaciation, peculiar behaviour, loss of bodily functions and eventually death.

Currently, there is no evidence the disease can spread to humans, but the CDC warned hunters to be cautious around potentially infected animals.

Symptoms include emaciation from forgetting to eat, stumbling, aggression, lack of fear of people, excessive thirst or urination, and excessive drooling.

It may sound like a scene out of a horror movie, but cases of "zombie deer disease" are popping up across the Midwest and some experts are warning it could pose a threat to humans.

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CWD is related to Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or the human form of mad cow disease, which scientists believe can be transmitted to humans by eating contaminated meat.

The disease has spread to 24 states, including MI.

When asked the chances of humans becoming infected with CWD, Osterhold compared it to a 'throw at the genetic roulette table'.

"People have to understand the significance of this".

"It is possible that CWD may also occur in other states without strong animal surveillance systems, but that cases haven't been detected yet".

'Once CWD is established in an area, the risk can remain for a long time in the environment.

The first case was tied to an animal that was killed near the El Paso-Culberson County line and the state plan called for a section of the area where the animal was discovered to be sort-of quarantined to try to limit any exposure to other animals, Tomecek said.

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