Fears Arise Over Deadly Disease That Turn Deer Into Zombies, Scientists Say It Could Reach Humans

A mysterious disease that causes deer to behave like zombies is spreading across the United States and parts of Canada and experts warn that it could be passed to humans.

According to the Atlantic Journal, the disease known as CWD or Chronic wasting disease has already been identified in 24 U.S. states as well as two Canadian provinces as of January.

Chronic wasting disease also known as zombie deer disease was first identified in Fort Collins, Colorado in 1967. NPR is reporting that animals infected with the disease have also been discovered in Norway and South Korea.

The disease attacks the brain, spinal cord, and the rest of the nervous system, resulting in dramatic weight loss, thick saliva, vacant staring, droopy heads, and aggression before death.

CWD can be passed on from animal to animal and it could take up to two years before an animal began to show symptoms.

Inasmuch as it has not been proven that the disease is transmissible to humans, it has been confirmed that CWD shares similarities with the mad cow disease which according to the Food and Drug Administration killed 231 people as of 2016.

Experts are concerned that the disease can reach humans who consume the infected meat. The New York Times has also suggested that sick animals could spread the disease by contact with plants or soil.

Researchers spearheaded by Mark Zabel, associate director at Colorado State University’s Prion Research Center revealed that macaque monkeys which consumed infected deer contracted the disease. This was first proof that the disease could reach a primate through meat.

Zabel’s concern revolves around the fact that the disease has been around for over 50 years, a scary sign of its adaptability and that it could soon be transmissible to humans.

“It’s only a matter of time before it spreads to humans…there’s a lot that we still don’t know about the disease.”

Experts are recommending that hunters who harvest deer to test their kill and to refrain from eating, if it comes back positive.

Colorado Public Radio is also asking people to take the following precautions and apply them not only to deer, but moose and elk as well.

  • Do not shoot, handle or eat meat from moose, elk or deer acting strangely or found dead (road-kill).
  • Wear latex or rubber gloves when handling the meat of the aforementioned animals.
  • Avoid handling the organs of the animals, particularly the brain and spinal cord tissues.
  • Refrain from eating the eyes, lymph nodes, spleen, spinal cord, brain or tonsils.
  • Avoid using kitchen utensils especially household knives for field dressing.
  • Get all deer, elk and moose tested for CWD and dispose properly if results are positive.