zombie deer

There is growing concern about a mysterious infectious disease that has been spreading among the wild deer population for decades. Scientists call it CWD or chronic wasting disease. Hunters refer to this condition as zombie deer disease. It can also affect elk and moose.

Where Are the Zombie Deer?

The CDC reports that this infectious disease has spread to wildlife in 24 states and two Canadian provinces. CWD was first detected in Colorado among captive deer in the 1960s and in the wild deer population in the 1980s. Zombie deer disease has now spread from the Western states to the Midwest, Southwest and some parts of the East Coast (CDC, Jan. 2019).

The disease appears to be caused by a prion infection that is reminiscent of mad cow disease. Technically known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, mad cow disease is a lethal neurological disorder of cattle. People who eat meat from contaminated cattle put themselves at risk of a serious neurological disorder called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Can People Catch Zombie Deer Disease?

An infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota has warned that hunters who eat contaminated deer meat may eventually develop the human equivalent of chronic wasting disease. To date, no human cases have been reported. However, the incubation period may be quite long. Consequently, public health officials strongly recommend against eating deer, elk or moose that appear sick. They also suggest testing such game for CWD before consuming the meat, although the testing may not be readily available in all communities.

The animal in the picture is a healthy-appearing white-tailed deer.

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  1. Jake

    Has anyone considered how millions of pounds of contaminated meat products in this country are disposed of every month? I thought they would be buried, or better, incinerated for health concerns because of the huge numbers. From my initial inquiries on the internet they appear to be injected back into the food-chain, both human and animal, as protein by-products. People…we may be eating these protein by-products and our pets may be eating these protein by-products and game animals on pay-to-hunt businesses may be eating these same protein by-products from contaminated meats and spreading CWD into the native deer /moose /elk population.
    BTW, I’m a meat-eater and a life-time hunter and a firm believer in the health benefits of wild caught game animals and fish for a healthy diet. I hope I’m wrong… don’t care to turn vegetarian in my 70’s.

    BTW, I’m a meat-eater and a life-time hunter and a firm believer in the health benefits of wild caught game animals and fish for a healthy diet. If you can provide the evidence to dispute my concerns please do so

    • Terry Graedon

      Fish and game agencies are warning hunters not to eat (or transport, or presumably sell) meat from animals with CWD.

  2. Leah

    I question your statement that says “to date there have been no human cases of this disease.” Our loved one passed away in 2013 of this disease. That year I heard of three other cases all in the United States. Why don’t you hear about this in the news? These were all confirmed cases.

  3. JOANN O.

    Good observation, Carol. I tried too print it but could not. We need to learn about our meat’s food sources.

  4. (Anonymous)

    This has been a major issue in Wisconsin and Minnesota (and other states) for many, many years. It’s a topic that’s covered in great detail every hunting season, along with info about testing killed deer. There seems to be a school of thought that eating the venison is still OK, except for some specific parts of the animal. There’s a lot of good, scientific info posted on DNR websites in affected states. One of the major ways to help decrease the spread of the disease is for people to stop feeding the deer, as it spreads via the animals’ urine. And, of course, there will be more urine on the ground in the places where they congregate — such as piles of corn dumped by people who want to feed them.

  5. carol

    I heard of this deer problem while driving across PA at 3am. There was a warning alert to hunters to report staggering deer and not to eat them. That was more then ten years ago
    That it was discovered first at a deer farm leaves me wondering if they also were fed the same feeds as cattle in England,(USA too) that had meat from cattle and sheep included.. The same type of feed that spread mad cow all over England years ago..
    The same disease that people got from eating those cows.
    That England is an island probably helped stop the spread of mad cow.
    Who ever had the idea of feeding dead diseased animals back to plant eating, grazing animals due to economics started something that will affect us all.
    Thus type of thing is happening to some dog foods in spite of laws against it. The inclusion of 4D meat. I was told that land fills would be over whelmed if the inclusion of this type of meat in dog foods was not done .
    So the blind eye is turned.

    • mary3

      We’ve messed with Mother Nature and are being repaid.
      All the ways are too many to list. Humans seem to go out of their way to destroy.
      Thank you for the dog food information. I had no idea.4D meat? Yikes.
      I should check IRT–Institute for Responsible Technology for non GMO, yet not sure if any testing for 4D.

      How does one even KNOW if it is in dog food?

  6. Tee

    Sure would be nice if the article contained an explanation of what zombie deer disease is! What are the signs and symptoms???

    • Leslie

      The article DOES explain what the zombie deer disease is: a chronic wasting disease caused by a prion similar to the mad cow disease prion. Look up that word. It causes animals to waste away even though they eat.

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