Published: Fri, February 22, 2019
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Have You Seen Any "Zombie Deer" in Maine

Have You Seen Any

But what exactly is it and could it spread to humans?

This illness affects the nervous system, making the brain of deer, elk, and moose practically destroying itself, turning the animals into zombie-like creatures. According to Michael Osterholm, an expert in infectious disease from the University of Minnesota, people eat more than 15,000 animals infected with chronic wasting disease (CWD) across the United States and Canada. That's why it's been called "zombie" disease. Once introduced to an area, this disease can spread quickly among animals.

There is no cure or treatment for CWD.

"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, " the agency says on its website. The name is associated with Chronic Wasting Disease which can transfer among free-ranging cervid, like deer, moose, elk. etc.

Since the first report of "zombie deer" about 50 years ago, sightings of the deer have spread to several parts of the United States, mostly because the cause of the disease has spread as well. 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. More concerning is that specialists consider that CWD might also affect humans.

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Scientists believe that CWD is likely spread through body fluids such as feces, saliva, blood, or urine, either through direct contact or through environmental contact via soil, food, or water.

The CDC said that additional studies are now under way to identify if any similar prion diseases could be occurring at a higher rate in people who are at increased risk for contact with potentially CWD-infected meat.

Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, recently warned that the nature of the disease is similar to mad cow disease, which can be transmitted from infected cows to people, CBS News reported.

"We are in an unknown territory situation", he commented in a recent USA Today report.

"A lot of the concern [about chronic wasting disease] is based on something that occurred years ago", Ryan Maddox, Ph.D., epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told ABC News. This disease is also found in reindeer in Norway and Finland, and some small number of cases are also seen in South Korea.

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