Researchers wonder if zombie deer disease can spread to humans

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The zombie deerpocalypse is upon us. Well… kind of. Deer populations, particularly white-tailed and mule deer, around the U.S. are coming down with something called chronic wasting disease (CWD).

It’s also known as zombie deer disease.
CWD is a fatal, neurological illness that affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and moose. It was first discovered in 1967, is contagious, and can be transmitted freely among the deer family.
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According to Undark, CWD causes deer to tremble and drool. It often prevents deer from being able to hold their head up and reduces the deer to skin and bone from drastic weight loss.

Eventually, the deer will die.
While there are no known cases of CWD in humans, researchers are wondering if the spread to humans it possible after a study by the Alberta Prion Research Institute found that it was spread to monkies who ate contaminated deer meat.

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The monkeys in the study were chosen because of their genetic similarities to humans.

“The assumption was for the longest time that chronic wasting disease was not a threat to human health,” the study’s lead researcher, Stefanie Czub, told The Tyee. “But with the new data, it seems we need to revisit this view to some degree.”

Despite the lack of evidence of the effects of CWD in humans, wildlife experts are taking a “better safe than sorry” approach.

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They are working to come up with guidelines that would require hunters to test any animals they kill.

They are also trying to use hunters to reduce CWD.
They’re asking hunters to go after bucks and elk in herds where CWD is widespread to reduce contamination, Country Living reports.

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CWD in free-ranging deer, elk, and moose have been reported in 23 states in the U.S. and two provinces in Canada.

Some areas report that 25 percent of their deer have CWD while other areas report that 79 percent of their deer have CWD.
“Once CWD is established in an area, the risk can remain for a long time in the environment,” the CDC reports. “The affected areas are likely to continue to expand.”

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Experts say those who live in areas with CWD infected deer should be testing their meat before they consume it.

The Alliance for Public Wildlife estimates that North American residents eat around 7,000 – 15,000 chronic wasting disease-ridden animals annually.
The CDC has some guidelines for preventing the consumption of CWD infested meat.

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They are as follows:

  • Don’t shoot animals that appear sick
  • Check for reports of infected animals before you hunt
  • Test your meat for CWD
  • Wear gloves when handling or field-dressing animals and meat
  • You can also just not eat deer meat. Learn more about CWD below.

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