Home Health Experts fear 'Zombie' deer disease could spread to humans – WSIL TV

Experts fear 'Zombie' deer disease could spread to humans – WSIL TV

13 min read

WSIL — Many are concerned that humans may be impacted by the "zombie" deer disease which is spreading across the country, now in nearly half the states including Illinois and Missouri.

According the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the disease which is formally known as chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a progressive, fatal disease that affects the brain, spinal cord, and many other tissues of farmed and free-ranging deer, elk, and moose.

As of January 2019, CWD in free-ranging deer, elk and/or moose has been reported in at least 24 states in the continental United States, as well as two provinces in Canada. There are no vaccines or treatments available for the disease, which is always fatal. That is why many are concerned that it may be transfered to humans. 

"It is probable that human cases of chronic wasting disease associated with consumption with contaminated meat will be documented in the years ahead," Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota told USA Today. "It’s possible the number of human cases will be substantial and will not be isolated events."

No cases of CWD have been reported in humans to date, but research suggests it poses a risk to humans. 

You can click here to see which counties in Illinois and Missouri the disease has been reported.

The CDC gives the following guidance to prevent getting CWD.

  • Do not shoot, handle or eat meat from deer and elk that look sick or are acting strangely or are found dead (road-kill).
  • When field-dressing a deer:
    • Wear latex or rubber gloves when dressing the animal or handling the meat.
    • Minimize 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.
  • Check state wildlife and public health guidance to see whether testing of animals is recommended or required. Recommendations vary by state, but information about testing is available from many state wildlife agencies.
  • Strongly consider having the deer or elk tested for CWD before you eat the meat.
  • If you have your deer or elk commercially processed, consider asking that your animal be processed individually to avoid mixing meat from multiple animals.
  • If your animal tests positive for CWD, do not eat meat from that animal.

You can click here for more preventative tips from the CDC.

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