Officials: ‘Zombie’ disease affecting deer in 24 states could spread to humans

(WHDH) — A deadly sickness known as the “zombie” disease is affecting the deer population in about 24 states and could infect humans, officials are warning.

Experts at the University of Minnesota told lawmakers last week of the dangers of chronic wasting disease (CWD), which is described as a “fatal, neurological illness occurring in North American cervids (members of the deer family), including white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and moose,” Fox News reports.

There have been no reported cases of the disease in people, but Michael Osterholm of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the university said human cases of CWD will likely be “documented in the years ahead.”

“It is probable that human cases of CWD associated with the consumption of contaminated meat will be documented in the years ahead,” Osterholm told the Twin Cities Pioneer Express.

There are no vaccines or treatments available to treat CWD, according to experts.

It is transmitted directly through animal-to-animal contact, and indirectly through contact with objects or environment contaminated with infectious material, including saliva, urine, feces, and carcasses of CWD-infected animals, according to the United States Geological Survey.

CWD is often referred to as the “zombie” disease since the infected animals often show signs of drastic weight loss (wasting), stumbling, listlessness, lack of coordination, no fear of people, the Centers of Disease Control said.

Deer in two Canadian provinces and South Korea have also been affected by the disease.

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