- Chronic wasting disease, or zombie deer disease, is spreading in US and Canada
- It’s not known to be transmissible to humans, and there have been no such cases
- But, a recent study found it could pass to macaques after eating infected meat
- Disease causes dramatic weight loss, vacant staring, aggression before death
A deadly disease that causes deer to act like zombies is on the rise across the US and parts of Canada – and experts warn it could soon spread to humans.
Chronic wasting disease (CWD), also known as ‘zombie deer disease,’ has been reported in 22 states and two Canadian provinces as of this month.
The infection attacks the brain, spinal cord, and other tissues in deer, elk, and moose, resulting in dramatic weight loss, lack of coordination, and even aggression before they eventually die.
While it’s not yet known to be transmissible to humans, a recent study found for the first time that macaques could get the disease after consuming infected meat, sparking fears that a variant targeting humans could soon emerge.
Warnings over ‘zombie deer disease’ have caused many to draw parallels to the mad cow epidemic.
For now, however, there’s no evidence that people can be harmed by infected meat, according to Colorado Public Radio.
CWD was first spotted just 50 years ago, with Colorado said to be the epicentre.
It can be found in both free-ranging and farmed animals, and is known to have horrifying effects on those it infects – but, it can be years before an animal begins to show signs.
The disease earned its nickname from the bizarre symptoms it causes, including a vacant stare and exposed ribs, as it causes the animal to physically waste away.
But to date, there have been no reported infections in humans.
Scientists have been hard at work attempting to better understand its distribution, and how it could evolve.
In the last hunting season, CWD testing for mule deer in some areas was required by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, according to CPR.
While it’s long been thought that there may be a ‘species barrier’ preventing it from spreading from deer to humans, the recent findings suggest the risk may be higher than previously suspected.
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