Zombie deer disease’ spreads to 32 states and 4 Canadian provinces, raising concerns of a potential spillover to humans

Zombie deer disease’ spreads to 32 states and 4 Canadian provinces, raising concerns of a potential spillover to humans

Widespread Outbreak of ‘Zombie Deer Disease’ Raises Concerns – 

Reports of the so-called ‘Zombie deer disease’ have emerged in at least 32 states across the United States and parts of Canada, prompting concerns of a potential threat to human health.

The virus, formally known as chronic wasting disease (CWD), manifests in animals with symptoms such as confusion, drooling, and an unusual lack of fear towards humans.

The alarming revelation follows the detection of the virus in a deer carcass in Yellowstone National Park in northwest Wyoming, marking a significant geographical spread.

Geographic Spread and Alarming Statistics:

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has identified CWD cases in 32 states and four Canadian provinces, with a notable concentration in the upper Midwest and mid-Atlantic regions.

States like Kansas, Nebraska, and Wisconsin have reported numerous cases across multiple counties, indicating the virus’s widespread presence.

The gravity of the situation has led to concerns expressed by experts, with Dr. Michael Osterholm terming it a ‘slow-moving disaster.’

Potential Threat to Humans:

Scientists, including Dr. Cory Anderson and Dr. Osterholm, have warned of the possibility of the disease jumping from animals to humans.

Drawing parallels with the ‘mad cow disease’ outbreak in Britain, Dr. Anderson emphasized the potential chaos that could ensue in the event of such a spillover.

While the transmission to humans is not confirmed, the lack of effective methods to eradicate CWD adds to the worry, making preparedness crucial.

Incurable and Highly Contagious:

Chronic wasting disease is described as invariably fatal, incurable, and highly contagious.

Dr. Anderson, a program co-director at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, highlighted the challenges in eradicating the disease from infected animals and the environment they contaminate.

The disease is prion-transmitted, similar to ‘mad cow disease,’ causing severe neurological symptoms and ultimately leading to death in deer and related species.

Government Caution and Ongoing Monitoring:

While the US National Park Service has stated that there is no current evidence of CWD infecting humans or domestic animals, caution has been advised, particularly for game hunters.

The federal agency recommends avoiding the consumption of tissues from CWD-infected animals. Recent cases, such as the infected mule deer in Yellowstone, have prompted park officials to revise surveillance plans and collaborate with wildlife agencies to assess the disease’s spread within the park.

Decades-Long Spread and Monitoring Efforts:

CWD was first detected in mule deer in Wyoming in 1985 and later found in Wyoming elk. The recent discovery in Yellowstone National Park represents the culmination of a westward spread across the state over several decades.

Wildlife agencies, including Montana state wildlife regulators, are actively monitoring and collaborating to assess the risk and prevalence of CWD.

While the situation is regarded as a ‘data point of interest,’ ongoing efforts aim to manage and mitigate the potential impacts of the disease.