‘Zombie Deer Disease’ Causing Panic in the US: What’s Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)? Symptoms, Causes and Prevention
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) aka "zombie deer disease" (Photo Credit: Pexels) For representational purposes only

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) also informally called the "zombie deer disease," a disease that spreading like an epidemic amongst the deer and

elk population is worrying. There has been confirmation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that deers and elks of two Canadian provinces and at least 24 states. Moreover, a potential risk of the "zombie deer disease" spread to humans is also catching up. Four cases of confirmed infections in Saskatchewan and one in Alberta in the year the Canadian Food Inspection Agency reported 2018. CDC believes that various experimental studies spike the concern that CWD may pose a threat to people. Nevertheless, steps must be taken to prevent the human population, especially the deer eating chunk from contracting the disease. Deer Poacher From Missouri ‘Sentenced’ To Watch Disney’s Bambi Movie Once a Month in Jail. 

What is Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) or 'Zombie Deer Disease'?

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a prion disease affecting deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer and moose. The prion disease is quite prevalent in areas of North America, including Canada and the United States. Areas of Norway and South Korea may also have seen cases of CWD. The disease can affect animals of all ages, and sometimes the infection can cause animals to die of this disease without developing the disease at all. Having no treatment and vaccines, the prion disease falls into the category of fatal diseases. While there have been no reported cases of Chronic wasting disease affecting the human population, some ongoing studies suggest that human primates such as monkey could be at the risk of developing the disease. The people who eat meat from CWD-infected animals or come in contact with brain or body fluids from infected deer or elk can be at risk.

Symptoms of Chronic Wasting Disease

The symptoms in animals affected with CWD make take over a year to be apparent. However, some of the symptoms may include:

  • Drastic weight loss (wasting)
  • Stumbling
  • Listlessness
  • Other common neurologic symptoms

Chronic Wasting Disease Prevention Tips

While we know the chances of humans getting infected by the disease is quite low but taking preventive measure is always advised.

Here are preventive measures, according to the CDC:

1. If a deer looks sick or are acting strangely, refrain from shooting, handling or eating meat from that deer and elk. Stay away from deers, and elks found dead (road-kill).

2. Planning to eat deer meat? CDC advises to strongly consider having the deer or elk tested for CWD before you eat the meat.

3. If your animal tests positive for CWD, do not eat meat from that animal.

4. Recommendations for testing your animals vary from state to state. Check according to your state wildlife and public health guidance to see whether testing of animals is recommended or required

5. Check deer or elk commercially processed meat. Avoid mixing meat from multiple animals.

6. If field-dressing a deer, CDC recommends to keep these three things in mind:

  • Wear latex or rubber gloves when dressing the animal or handling the meat.
  • Minimise how much you handle the organs of the animal, particularly the brain or spinal cord tissues.
  • Do not use household knives or other kitchen utensils for field dressing.

If you live in an area of deers or own deers, you are advised to get your deer checked for Chronic wasting disease (CWD) to protect your deer and yourself.