“Zombie Deer” disease in Midwest

Adam Budd, Staff Writer

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Recently a rare, fatal type of disease called “Zombie Deer Disease” or “Chronic Wasting Disease” (CWD) has been spreading across the country. Right now, it is mainly in the midwest, and the disease is only spreading to deer.

The disease was first discovered in the 1960’s in Colorado but was not seen in wild deer until 1981. It was relatively subdued until the recent outbreak. Infected deer are in the United States, Canada, Norway and South Korea. It has spread to 26 different states in the U.S.

As of right now, there is no evidence pointing to the fact that CWD could be transmitted to humans, although many scientists believe it has those capabilities. CWD is only spread through bodily fluids.      

Infected deer start to show symptoms. The deer start stumbling, seem dizzy and confused, and lose weight rapidly, hence the name “Chronic Wasting Disease.” At first the disease only affects the brain but eventually spreads, leading to death.

CWD is similar to another case we have seen, the “Mad Cow Disease,” A similar disease but was spreading through cows. Experts are trying to avoid a similar situation.

“The only way I see it spreading to humans is if humans eat infected deer,” Biology teacher Kimberly Briggs said. “The public should be informed about this potential so we don’t have another prion outbreak like the mad cow disease.”

In the past few months CWD has began to spread more rapidly and hunters are being warned not to eat any meat from a deer that could be infected until the meat has been properly examined.

If CWD could spread to people, it would most likely be through eating of infected deer and elk,” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated.

Scientists have never had a reason to develop a vaccine since CWD has never really been a threat to humans, but now scientists started working on a vaccine for the disease. They have been running more tests to develop a cure.

“CWD could potentially spread to humans because the disease can apparently spread from animal to animal so theoretically it’s possible,” Sophomore Thomas White said.

Although CWD is not viewed as a threat right now, there are still precautions being taken. Experts on the topic advise all of the people handling the possibly infected deer to take extra steps to decrease the threat of CWD.

“At the moment I don’t feel like CWD is a threat but it could eventually become one.” White added.

Even though CWD has not yet been transmitted to humans, everyone should still remain cautious and take proper steps to make sure that the deer meat is safe before eating it.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons