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Deadly 'Zombie' Deer Disease Found To Be Spreading Across North America

Deadly 'Zombie' Deer Disease Found To Be Spreading Across North America

A strange and deadly disease that turns deer into 'zombies' is sweeping across North America and is present in 24 states of the USA and two provinces of Canada, according to a new report.

The disease - sometimes known as 'zombie deer disease' - affects the brain, spinal cord, and other tissue of deer, elk, and moose.

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The disease is formally known as chronic wasting disease and it causes animals infected to become aggressive, lose their concentration, and waste away. Eventually, the animal dies.

As mentioned, the report from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention says that 24 states of the USA and two provinces of Canada have reported cases of the illness as of January 2019. That's two more states than last year.

First off, it's worth remembering that this disease is nothing that we should be scared of. Well, that's unless you're a deer who has remarkably gained language and worked out a way to operate a computer.

Deer in the USA, looking suitably scared. Credit: PA
Deer in the USA, looking suitably scared. Credit: PA
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Unlike 'Mad Cow Disease' there is no evidence that you'd get ill from eating the meat of a deer that has the disease. However, given that it caused the animals to waste away, you might not actually get a great deal of meat out of it anyway.

Also, there's not much sport in hunting a deer that is already on the brink of death, I wouldn't imagine.

That being said, it was recently observed that macaque monkeys could catch the disease from eating the meat. That means that a variant that can pass to humans may emerge in the future. Let's hope not.

The disease was first observed in the wild around four decades ago, however it has been seen in captivity since the 1960s. It is thought to have started in the states of Colorado and Wyoming before spreading it's deadly tendrils outwards to other states.

Elk, looking less bothered. Credit: PA
Elk, looking less bothered. Credit: PA

The CDC report said: "Since 2000, the area known to be affected by CWD in free-ranging animals has increased to at least 24 states, including states in the Midwest, Southwest, and limited areas on the East Coast.

"It is possible that CWD may also occur in other states without strong animal surveillance systems, but that cases haven't been detected yet.

"Once CWD is established in an area, the risk can remain for a long time in the environment. The affected areas are likely to continue to expand."

Either way, it looks like instances of infection with the disease are set to continue their growth. It can remain in an animal for several years before signs are seen, that means that a lot of animals could already have the illness.

A healthy deer. Credit: PA
A healthy deer. Credit: PA

The CDC report continued: "In several locations where the disease is established, infection rates may exceed 10 percent (1 in 10), and localised infection rates of more than 25 per cent (one in four) have been reported.

"The infection rates among some captive deer can be much higher, with a rate of 79 per cent (nearly four in five) reported from at least one captive herd."

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: News, America, US News, Animals, Health

Tom Wood

Tom Wood is a freelance journalist and LADbible contributor. He graduated from University of London with a BA in Philosophy before studying for a Masters in Journalism at the University of Salford. He has previously written for the M.E.N Group as well as working for several top professional sports clubs. Contact him on [email protected]

 

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