Home » today » Health » Scientists Concerned ‘Zombie Deer Disease’ May Spread to Humans, Similar to Mad Cow Disease

Scientists Concerned ‘Zombie Deer Disease’ May Spread to Humans, Similar to Mad Cow Disease

The threat of ‘Zombie Deer Disease’ jumping to humans raises concerns

Scientists are alarmed after two hunters who consumed deer meat infected with chronic wasting disease (CWD), also known as ‘zombie deer disease,’ were found to have developed neurological diseases similar to the aggressive form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). This worrying link has raised concerns about the possibility of the disease passing from animals to humans, just as mad cow disease did in the United Kingdom in the 1990s.

<video controls poster="https://www.gannett-cdn.com/authoring/videos/videoelephant/thumbnails/71652039007.jpg">video/mp4">video>

Deer dead from “Contagious” zombie disease at Yellowstone

A Yellowstone National Park press release has confirmed that a deer died from “chronic wasting disease,” also known as zombie disease.

unbranded – Newsworthy

What is chronic wasting disease?

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) was initially found in deer populations in Colorado and Wyoming in the 1990s. Since then, it has been documented in free-ranging deer, elk, and moose in at least 32 states across the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Infected deer often exhibit symptoms such as weight loss, lack of coordination, stumbling, listlessness, drooling, and a reduced fear of humans, earning them the nickname ‘zombie deer’.

Similarities between CWD and mad cow disease

Scientists and health officials are wary of the possible transmission of CWD to humans, much like the outbreak of mad cow disease in the United Kingdom in the 1990s. A study conducted in Canada in 2022, based on mice research, suggested the risk of CWD transmission to humans, further escalating concerns.

Recent case highlights potential transmission

At the University of Texas Health Science Center, research reveals a troubling case involving two individuals who consumed CWD-infected venison and died in 2022. Both individuals developed sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a neurodegenerative disorder similar to CWD.

The subsequent investigation raised the possibility of novel animal-to-human transmission of the disease. However, the researchers emphasized that further investigation is required to conclusively prove a direct link between CWD-infected deer consumption and the development of similar neurological conditions in humans.

Potential risks of consuming CWD-infected deer

While the location of the case was not disclosed, the highest concentration of CWD-infected deer has been recorded in Kansas, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Wyoming according to CDC and U.S. Geological Survey reports.

Due to the challenges in distinguishing between CWD and other neurological diseases, caution is necessary. The researchers have emphasized the urgency of investigating the potential risks associated with consuming CWD-infected deer and the implications for public health.

Prion diseases and their transmission

Chronic wasting disease, also known as ‘zombie deer disease,’ falls under the category of prion diseases, like Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and the variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Prion diseases are rare, progressive, and fatal neurodegenerative disorders that affect animals and humans, caused by the abnormal folding of specific ‘prion proteins’ in the brain.

Prion diseases progress rapidly and are always fatal. Mad cow disease is an example of a prion disease that transferrable from cattle to humans, sparking concern that ‘zombie deer disease’ has the potential to pose a similar risk.

Can ‘zombie deer disease’ be transmitted to humans?

As of now, there have been no confirmed cases of deer-to-human transmission of CWD. Jennifer Mullinax, an associate professor of wildlife ecology and management, highlighted the importance of keeping prion diseases out of the food chain. Preventive measures are essential to avoiding a potential crisis similar to that caused by mad cow disease.

Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, cautioned that the pathology and clinical presentation of CWD in humans are not yet known, and there are differences in the structure of prions that cause BSE and CWD.

Expanding prevalence and the need for attention

Chronic wasting disease continues to spread to more states, with Indiana being the latest addition. Reportedly, a male white-tailed deer tested positive for the disease in the northeastern part of Indiana, bordering Michigan, where previous cases were identified.

In a comprehensive survey, the U.S. Geological Survey now includes 33 states, along with various Canadian provinces and other countries, in its tracking of CWD, highlighting its expanding distribution and the need for increased attention.

Follow Mike Snider on X and Threads: @mikesnider & mikegsnider.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.