Experts Concerned ‘Zombie Deer’ Disease Could Spread To Humans

Credit PA

Credit PA

While there have been no cases in humans, experts are concerned it could spread to people.

While there have not been cases of the disease reported in humans, Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told lawmakers human cases will likely be "documented in the years ahead". The fatal disease degrades the brains, spines and bodies of the animals it infects, and there are no known treatments or vaccines.

Minimize how much you handle the organs of the animal, particularly the brain or spinal cord tissues. For deer, elk and moose, these include stumbling, listlessness, drooling and rapid weight loss.

Still, experimental studies "raise the concern that CWD may pose a risk to people and suggest that it is important to prevent human exposures to CWD".

Tomecek explained the disease is neither viral, nor bacterial, but instead is a Prion disease, one of a "family of rare progressive neurodegenerative disorders that affect both humans and animals", a more detailed description on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website says.

The disease was first identified in captive deer in the late '60s in Colorado and in wild deer in 1981.

The chronic wasting disease - or CWD has been detected in 24 USA states and two Canadian provinces.

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"People have to understand the significance of this".

Currently, as many as 15,000 infected deer are eaten each year - a number that's expected to rise by 20 percent annually, according to Osterhold.

"If Stephen King could write an infectious disease novel, he'd write it about prions", Osterholm said.

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

As of January 2019, CWD in free-ranging deer, elk and/or moose has been reported in at least 24 states in the continental United States, as well as two provinces in Canada.

TPWD's specific rules say hunters who harvest mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, red deer, or other CWD susceptible species within the TransPecos, Panhandle, and South-Central Texas CWD Containment and Surveillance Zones "are required to bring their animals to a TPWD check station within 48 hours of harvest".

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