As Zombie Deer Disease Affects 24 States, Expert Warns People Could Unwittingly Be Consuming Infected Meat

'You could be eating infected deer without even knowing it,' Michael Osterholm said.

Image of a person consuming venison stew
desiGNagy / Shutterstock

'You could be eating infected deer without even knowing it,' Michael Osterholm said.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announces that the “zombie” deer disease has now affected 24 states in the U.S., one researcher is warning people that they could be eating infected meat without even knowing it.

According to Business Insider, Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, is concerned that people are consuming infected meat.

“You could be eating infected deer without even knowing it,” Osterholm said.

“It is probable that human cases of CWD associated with the consumption of CWD-contaminated meat will be documented in the years ahead.”

As previously reported by The Inquisitr, some people have already been documented as consuming meat affected by chronic wasting disease (CWD), which is commonly referred to as “zombie” deer disease. The participants in a study were recorded as consuming venison that later tested positive for CWD in 2005. Since then, none of the participants have tested positive for CWD. However, the disease could potentially take decades to show up.

Currently, there has been no evidence of CWD crossing from deer to humans. However, considering the disease is similar to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (also known as mad cow disease) which jumped from cows to humans in the 1980s, the potential is certainly there for the disease to mutate.

As the crisis widens, CDC, Health Canada, and state health officials are warning people not to eat meat they suspect could test positive for CWD. Testing is available for suspect meat. However, Osterholm does note that the current testing system requires meat to be sent in for testing, which could take days before the results are known.

While officials are warning against consuming suspect venison, they are still wanting hunters to continue killing deer. The reason being is that a decrease in the hunting of these animals could cause a population explosion.

Some states are planning targeted deer removal, according to WJAC Johnston. Pennsylvania Game Commission officials have confirmed that they will enact this scheme in order to discover whether CWD can be established in some areas after instances of CWD were identified in Clearfield, Jefferson, and Franklin counties. Approximately 100 to 200 deer will be removed in order to “see if CWD has been established.”

Meanwhile, in New York, a state which has not yet seen any identified cases of CWD, an aggressive approach is being implemented, according to NBC New York. They have curbed the import of deer products from affected states in an effort to keep the disease out of their state.

Currently, it is not completely understood how contamination occurs in the wild between beasts. According to Business Insider, Scientists believe “CWD spreads from animal to animal via contaminated body fluids or through indirect exposure to contaminated carcasses or drinking water.” It is also known that contamination can occur between wild deer and elk as well as farmed stock. However, CWD is not known to affect cattle.