‘Zombie’ Deer Disease Now Present in 24 States

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There have also been cases of this disease in Norway and Finland through the reindeer and moose populations.

In the end, the so-called "zombie deer disease" is not yet a threat to humans and nobody knows if it's going to become a danger for people. The disease was first identified in captive deer in the late 1960s in Colorado and in wild deer in 1981.

Zombie disease or Chronic Wasting Disease is becoming prevalent in the United States according to the reports.

Mark Zabel, associate director at Colorado State University's Prion Research Center, said prions involved in the "zombie disease", which scientists have only known about for 50 years, are probably still evolving. Although the overall rate of infection in deer, elk and moose across the country is low, infection rates may be as high as 10 to 25 percent in places where it is common. "Zombie deer", of course, have more to do with a fatal disease than with any kind of zombie flick. Yet, the only location in NY state is in upstate Oneida, and there have been no reports of the disease in nearby New Jersey. Once introduced to an area, this disease can spread quickly among animals. This means that an animal could contract CWD from the dead body of another that died as a result of the disease.

And, while it has yet to happen, there is some concern it could spread to humans who hunt and eat the meat. However, to date, there is no strong evidence for the occurrence of CWD in people, and it is not known if people can get infected with CWD prions. Infected animals may also display a lack of fear of people and may be more out in the open, making them more susceptible to hunting. As more infected meat is consumed, Osterholm said the risk of the disease crossing over and infecting humans could also increase.

"We are in an unknown territory situation", he commented in a recent USA Today report. "It is possible that number of human cases will be substantial and will not be isolated events", he told the Twin Cities Pioneer Press.

What precautions can people take?

The CDC is, however, continuing to warn the public to test their venison or elk meat for CWD before eating it from areas with documented infections. If you do decide to eat the meat, they suggest getting it tested before doing so.

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