The deadly disease has already been reported in 24 US states
08 October, 2019, 09:57
It may sound like the setup for a low budget horror film, but wildlife officials have warned of the genuine threat of zombie deer.
They're not actual zombies, of course, but rather deer suffering from chronic wasting disease, which is highly contagious and fatal. Symptoms include dramatic weight loss, a lack of coordination, excessive thirst or urination, drooping ears, and infected deer lack a fear of humans or aggression.
A 2004 study in the Centers for Disease Control's Emerging Infectious Diseases journal showed two captive mule deer populations were infected with the disease in separate paddocks that hadn't had infected animals in them about two years.
Wildlife officials are warning hunters about a brain-wasting disease affecting deer in 24 states, though no cases have been reported in humans to this date, USA Today reports.
The disease spread to surrounding areas in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming by the 1990s and has been found in an increasing number of states, including across the mid-Atlantic since 2000.
Nevada also introduced a ban earlier this year on bringing certain animal body parts into the state, including the brain and the spinal cord that can contain large concentrations of prions.
Some studies show that animals are contagious before symptoms start.
Tyler Turnipseed, chief game warden in Nevada, had posed a scenario where local populations could be infected by butchered waste dumped by a hunter passing through from another state.
"It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when", one of Nevada's wildlife veterinarians at the Department of Wildlife, Peregrine Wolff, told the Sun.
"It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when", Wolff said.
The CDC says that while there is no strong evidence for human transmission, some research suggests that the CWD prion can infect squirrel monkeys as well as laboratory mice that carry human genes. "A raven comes along, or the deer that migrate down off the Sonoma Range to the Humboldt River, and comes into contact with this carcass, and all of a sudden we've got chronic wasting disease (in Nevada)".
So far, there is no evidence that chronic wasting disease can cross species from deer to humans.
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