Experts warn deadly ‘zombie’ deer disease could eventually spread to humans

Deer zombie disease

Deer zombie disease

So far, no cases of chronic wasting disease have been reported in humans.

Animals affected with CWD have a zombie-like stare and are so gaunt that their rib cages are exposed, hence the "zombie deer" nickname, according to ABC 13. "Since 1997, the World Health Organization has recommended that it is important to keep the agents of all known prion diseases from entering the human food chain".

Now there are no vaccines for the disease, which is transmitted through animal-to-animal contact or indirectly through contaminated drinking water or food. Once introduced into an area or farm, it can be very contagious within deer and elk populations and can spread quickly.

On a final note, Osterholm also suggested that "If Stephen King could write an infectious disease novel, he would write about prions like this".

Experts at the University of Minnesota told lawmakers last week of the dangers of chronic wasting disease (CWD), which is described as a "fatal, neurological illness occurring in North American cervids (members of the deer family), including white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and moose", Fox News reports.

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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".

Also, the disease should not be underestimated since like mad cow disease, CWD might be able to develop or mutate to have a human variant as well.

It has never been passed to humans, but a Minnesota expert says that it's "probable" people could pick up the disease from eating infected meats. It is now incurable and the symptoms could take a while to appear, meaning a hunted deer or some roadkill with hooves could look healthy enough to be consumed by humans, passing the disease on to them.

Washing hands well and cutting meat on disinfected surfaces.

The DWR adds that individuals who spot sick animals in the wild should contact their local DWR office.

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