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Scientists Worry ‘Zombie Deer Disease’ Spread

Scientists in the United States are sounding alarms over the possible spread of the chronic wasting disease (CWD), dubbed as ‘zombie deer disease’, to humans in the future after its first-ever case was reported in Yellowstone National Park last month.

As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CWD is a highly contagious prion disease that can also cause weight loss, stumbling, listlessness and neurological symptoms.

The disease has been seen in deer, elk, reindeer and moose in areas of North America, Canada, Norway and South Korea. Its first case was detected in a deer in Yellowstone National Park’s Wyoming area.

Side effects can require as long as a year to create and some have named it the “zombie deer illness” since it changes in the hosts’ brains and nervous systems, leaving animals drooling, lethargic, emaciated, stumbling and with a telltale “blank stare,” The Guardian reported.

CWD is one of a cluster of fatal neurological disorders that includes Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly referred to as “mad cow disease.”

“The BSE outbreak in Britain provided an example of how, overnight, things can get crazy when a spillover event happens from, say, livestock to people,” Dr Cory Anderson, a program co-director at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), said.

“We’re discussing the capability of something almost identical happening. Nobody is saying that it’s certainly going to work out, however individuals must be ready,” Anderson added.

As per Anderson, the pathogen, which can persist for years in dirt or surfaces, is resistant to disinfectants, formaldehyde, radiation, and incineration at 1,100°F.

It represents a critical danger to the two creatures and the climate it taints, as there is no known technique for successfully and effectively destroying it.

The Partnership for Public Wildlife estimated in 2017 that 7,000 to 15,000 CWD-infected animals a year were accidentally being eaten by people, and that the number was supposed to increment by 20% yearly, representing a huge danger to people.

The CDC suggests trackers have creatures tried prior to eating the meat, as the hunting season is in progress.

Meanwhile, Yellowstone staff has increased collaboration with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and other state agencies to identify areas with increased risk for CWD.

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