CDC: ‘Zombie deer ailment’ spreading in U.S. could infect people

It might seem like a scene out of a horror movie, but cases of “zombie deer disease” are springing up over the Midwest and a few specialists are cautioning it could represent a danger to people.

The ailment, which is really called chronic wasting disease, influences free-grazing deer, elk, and moose. The disease disintegrates the brain so the animal salivates and acts lethargic, in a sort of zombie-like state.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says cases of chronic wasting disease have been reported at least 24 states, as well as two provinces in Canada.

The ailment is constantly fatal. It is thought to spread between animals through contact with contaminated body fluids and tissue. It can likewise be transmitted by implication through natural exposures, for example, in tainted drinking water or food.

“It’s a disease that you can’t get rid of,” Dale Garner, wildlife chief for Iowa’s Division of Natural Resources, told CBS Chicago. “There’s no cure so far. So as long as you have deer on the landscape, and it continues to spread from animal to animal, you’ll probably have more.”

To date, there have been no cases of chronic wasting disease, or CWD, in people. Notwithstanding, some experts have raised concerns that it could pose a threat to people.

Michael Osterholm, the chief of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, as of late cautioned that the idea of the disease is similar to mad cow disease, which can be transmitted from infected cows to people.

“It is my best professional judgment based on my public health experience… that it is probable that human cases of CWD associated with the consumption of contaminated meat will be documented in the years ahead. It is possible that number of human cases will be substantial and will not be isolated events,” he said, according to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press.

Like distraught dairy animals and Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease in humans, chronic wasting disease is believed to be caused by abnormal proteins called prions which multiply and cause damage to the brain and spinal cord.

To be as sheltered as would be possible and to decrease the potential risk of exposure to chronic wasting disease, the CDC prescribes that individuals not touch road kill and that hunters not shoot,, handle or eat meat from deer and elk that look debilitated or are acting strangely. Hunters should also wear gloves when dressing deer and should have the meat tested before eating it.