The 32 states where cases of zombie deer disease has been reported


At least 32 states in America and parts of Canada have seen reports of a virus dubbed ‘Zombie deer disease’ that could potentially spread to humans in what one experts calls a ‘slow-moving disaster.’

The fatal brain virus, which leaves animals confused, drooling, and unafraid of humans may someday infect people, as cautioned by some authorities.

According to Anderson, whose study focused on the pathways of CWD transmission, the disease is ‘invariably fatal, incurable, and highly contagious’.

‘Baked into the worry is that we don’t have an effective easy way to eradicate it, neither from the animals it infects nor the environment it contaminates.’

CWD is a prion-transmitted disease, similar to ‘Mad Cow,’ which can cause weight loss, loss of coordination and other eventually fatal neurological symptoms in deer and related species.

The U.S. National Park Service said last month: ‘There is currently no evidence that CWD can infect humans or domestic animal species.’

But the federal agency cautioned game hunters in particular, ‘it is recommended that tissues from CWD-infected animals not be consumed.’

At least 32 states in America and parts of Canada have seen reports of a virus dubbed 'Zombie deer disease' that could potentially spread to humans in what one experts calls a 'slow-moving disaster.' The fatal brain virus, which leaves animals confused, drooling, and unafraid of humans may someday infect people, as cautioned by some authorities.
At least 32 states in America and parts of Canada have seen reports of a virus dubbed ‘Zombie deer disease’ that could potentially spread to humans in what one experts calls a ‘slow-moving disaster.’ The fatal brain virus, which leaves animals confused, drooling, and unafraid of humans may someday infect people, as cautioned by some authorities.
The alarm was raised after a deer carcass tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Yellowstone National Park in northwest Wyoming in November. Now, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has detected the virus in 32 states and four Canadian provinces. Much of the reported cases are in the upper midwest, as well as the mid-Atlantic states.
The alarm was raised after a deer carcass tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Yellowstone National Park in northwest Wyoming in November. Now, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has detected the virus in 32 states and four Canadian provinces. Much of the reported cases are in the upper midwest, as well as the mid-Atlantic states.
Kansas, Nebraska and Wisconsin have all seen over 40 counties report cases of the virus, according to USA Today. Dr. Michael Osterholm, who studied the spread of what's known as 'mad cow disease,' is the one who sounded the alarm in The Guardian, calling it a 'slow-moving disaster.' Scientists believe there is a very real possibility for the disease to spread to humans.
Kansas, Nebraska and Wisconsin have all seen over 40 counties report cases of the virus, according to USA Today. Dr. Michael Osterholm, who studied the spread of what’s known as ‘mad cow disease,’ is the one who sounded the alarm in The Guardian, calling it a ‘slow-moving disaster.’ Scientists believe there is a very real possibility for the disease to spread to humans.
Dr. Cory Anderson and Osterholm both say many thousands of people have probably eaten meat from infected deer. Anderson, the program co-director at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, told The Guardian: 'The BSE (mad cow) outbreak in Britain provided an example of how, overnight, things can get chaotic when a spillover event occurs, say, from livestock to people. We're talking about the potential of something similar occurring.' He added: 'No one is saying that it's definitely going to happen, but it's important for people to be prepared.'
Dr. Cory Anderson and Osterholm both say many thousands of people have probably eaten meat from infected deer. Anderson, the program co-director at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, told The Guardian: ‘The BSE (mad cow) outbreak in Britain provided an example of how, overnight, things can get chaotic when a spillover event occurs, say, from livestock to people. We’re talking about the potential of something similar occurring.’ He added: ‘No one is saying that it’s definitely going to happen, but it’s important for people to be prepared.’
Samples from the body of the infected mule deer tested positive for CWD over multiple rounds conducted by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department's (WGFD) Wildlife Health Laboratory. Typical testing of live and dead animals involves sampling a creature's nervous system tissue, either from the central nervous system, like the spinal cord, or peripheral systems, like the retropharyngeal lymph nodes and the tonsils. Studies have proved that the disease posed a risk to non-human primates including monkeys, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 'These studies raise concerns that there may also be a risk to people,' the agency said. 'Since 1997, the World Health Organization has recommended that it is important to keep the agents of all known prion diseases from entering the human food chain.'
Samples from the body of the infected mule deer tested positive for CWD over multiple rounds conducted by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s (WGFD) Wildlife Health Laboratory. Typical testing of live and dead animals involves sampling a creature’s nervous system tissue, either from the central nervous system, like the spinal cord, or peripheral systems, like the retropharyngeal lymph nodes and the tonsils. Studies have proved that the disease posed a risk to non-human primates including monkeys, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ‘These studies raise concerns that there may also be a risk to people,’ the agency said. ‘Since 1997, the World Health Organization has recommended that it is important to keep the agents of all known prion diseases from entering the human food chain.’
Park officials at Yellowstone said they are working with WGFD to monitor the park's deer and other hooved species, both dead and alive, to assess better how far CWD has spread through the national park. Yellowstone National Park officials said that the discovery has prompted them to revise the park's 2021 CWD surveillance plan — with a new protocol version expected sometime next year. Park spokesperson Morgan Warthin said Yellowstone also plans to increase its collaborative efforts with WGFD to identify which areas of the park are at increased risk from the disease. CWD was first detected in mule deer in Wyoming in 1985 along the state's southeastern region.
Park officials at Yellowstone said they are working with WGFD to monitor the park’s deer and other hooved species, both dead and alive, to assess better how far CWD has spread through the national park. Yellowstone National Park officials said that the discovery has prompted them to revise the park’s 2021 CWD surveillance plan — with a new protocol version expected sometime next year. Park spokesperson Morgan Warthin said Yellowstone also plans to increase its collaborative efforts with WGFD to identify which areas of the park are at increased risk from the disease. CWD was first detected in mule deer in Wyoming in 1985 along the state’s southeastern region.
The following year, the fatal brain disease was discovered in Wyoming elk, according to WGFD. The disease's arrival in Yellowstone marks the end of a decades-long spread westward across the state, reaching the national park's location in Wyoming's northwest corner. Wyoming game officials had been tracking the mule deer buck from March 2023 until October 2023, when its GPS tag indicated it had likely died. Their search for its body took them to a landmass between the south and southeastern arms of Yellowstone Lake, known as the Promontory.
The following year, the fatal brain disease was discovered in Wyoming elk, according to WGFD. The disease’s arrival in Yellowstone marks the end of a decades-long spread westward across the state, reaching the national park’s location in Wyoming’s northwest corner. Wyoming game officials had been tracking the mule deer buck from March 2023 until October 2023, when its GPS tag indicated it had likely died. Their search for its body took them to a landmass between the south and southeastern arms of Yellowstone Lake, known as the Promontory.
orth of the park, Montana state wildlife regulators are also assisting in the effort and monitoring game caught by their state's local hunters. A spokesperson for Region 3 of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Morgan Jacobsen, told the Daily Montanan that many CWD cases have not yet been detected in the state's hunting districts bordering Yellowstone. Jacobsen described the news as a 'data point of interest,' but not one that would radically change Montana's own CWD surveillance plans. 'We're going to continue our monitoring and communication with the park and continue to work with hunters as the primary management tool for CWD in Montana,' Jacobsen said.
North of the park, Montana state wildlife regulators are also assisting in the effort and monitoring game caught by their state’s local hunters. A spokesperson for Region 3 of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Morgan Jacobsen, told the Daily Montanan that many CWD cases have not yet been detected in the state’s hunting districts bordering Yellowstone. Jacobsen described the news as a ‘data point of interest,’ but not one that would radically change Montana’s own CWD surveillance plans. ‘We’re going to continue our monitoring and communication with the park and continue to work with hunters as the primary management tool for CWD in Montana,’ Jacobsen said.

This article by Stephen M. Lepore was first published by The Daily Mail on 27 December 2023. Lead Image: According to Anderson, whose study focused on the pathways of CWD transmission, the disease is ‘invariably fatal, incurable, and highly contagious’. ‘Baked into the worry is that we don’t have an effective easy way to eradicate it, neither from the animals it infects nor the environment it contaminates.’ CWD is a prion-transmitted disease, similar to ‘Mad Cow,’ which can cause weight loss, loss of coordination and other eventually fatal neurological symptoms in deer and related species. The U.S. National Park Service said last month: ‘There is currently no evidence that CWD can infect humans or domestic animal species.’ But the federal agency cautioned game hunters in particular, ‘it is recommended that tissues from CWD-infected animals not be consumed.’

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