Experts fear 'Zombie' deer disease could spread to humans

Pearl Mccarthy
February 20, 2019

No case of CWD has yet been reported in humans, but research suggests there is potential risk.

The infectious malady, named Chronic Wasting Disease and unofficially dubbed "Zombie Deer Disease", could potentially be transmitted to those who eat contaminated venison, according to Michael Osterholm, a biosecurity expert who heads the Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Chronic wasting disease is sometimes referred to as "zombie deer disease", or some other variant.

The center says scientists believe the contagious disease is passed between animals through bodily fluids.

"It's possible the number of human cases will be substantial, and will not be isolated events".

Till now no active case is seen in humans, but studies are confirming that the transmission of the disease to humans is possible. The disease could be contracted by those that eat deer meat.

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As of now, the disease is spreading further across the states as more and more people report cases of infected animals. Although there is no definite answer yet whether this will cause a human crossover, Osterholm says the likelihood will increase, following the observation report on macaque monkeys discovered eating the said meat.

It has an incubation period of over a year, with some animals not showing symptoms for years after being infected, the CDC said.

In the United States, the disease has been detected in deer in Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Also, minimize the time spent touching organs such as the brain and spinal cord tissues. He described it as "a throw at the genetic roulette table".

'People have to understand the significance of this. The affected areas are likely to continue to expand'.

The first case was tied to an animal that was killed near the El Paso-Culberson County line and the state plan called for a section of the area where the animal was discovered to be sort-of quarantined to try to limit any exposure to other animals, Tomecek said.

The CDC says the overall occurrence of the disease nationwide in free-ranging deer and elk is relatively low, but adds that infection rates in areas where the disease is established may exceed 10 percent, or 1 in 10 - and infection rates of more than 25 percent have been reported in some areas.

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