‘Zombie’ Disease Affecting Deer Can One Day Spread to Humans

Jacqueline Vargas, Reporter

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Chronic Wasting Disease, also known as a “zombie” disease affecting deers and moose, has now been confirmed in 24 states and some parts of Canada, according to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC).

Some symptoms of the disease include drastic weight loss, excessive salivation, grinding of teeth, nervousness, loss of fear for humans, and other abnormal behavior. Contaminated elk may not show symptoms immediately after being infected; in fact, it may take up to two years for symptoms to appear. Beside affecting elk, experts say the disease can also affect primates and although there is no current case in humans, it may spread to humans eventually. There is no vaccine or medicine to prevent organisms from becoming contaminated.  

As of now, it is not known how CWD is transmitted, but it is suspected that such disease is passed through urine, feces, and consumption of infected deer meat. Many states have warned hunters to beware of infected deer and if possible to avoid eating deer meat – especially the brain and spinal cord – or transporting it to another state.

Cynthia Moreno, a student at Sycamore Jr. High, says she is “glad states are taking such measures; it is scary to think how this disease will affect the deer population and potentially, humans.”

Other wildlife agencies are taking things into their own hands by investigating the habitats of the areas where deer are contaminated and collecting information about how CWD affects elk.  Saul Reyes, a student at Hesperia High School, says that his family is going hunting this year in October and he is aware of the issue, “My family is consider not going this year because this deer news has been everywhere, but we have heard that not all of Utah has those deer.”

As research continues, some say that deer are not threatening or aggressive, but rather that they are confused. In other words, they will not eat brains, but their own brain actually has holes which causes them to lose coordination.