The threat of 'zombie deer' across the United States has become worrisome and scientists rue the fact that it can not be stopped. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the 'zombie deer' is an outcome of chronic wasting disease (CWD), a fatal neurological disorder that affects the brain and spinal cord of deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer, and moose. The CDC also claims that the disease has already been reported from at least 24 US states and two provinces of Canada. There has not been reported cases among human but its threat can not be ruled out.
Dr. Michael Osterholm, the director of the CDC centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said that there might be a possible ongoing transmission among humans and they are unaware of it, quoted a British daily. According to Osterholm, the chronic wasting disease is present in the muscle and it doesn’t get destroyed even after cooking. CWD belongs to the family of prion disease and its symptoms may develop slowly over a period of time.
The disease changes the behaviour and appearance of infected animals causing drastic weight loss, stumbling, lack of coordination, listlessness, drooling, excessive thirst or urination, drooping ears, and lack of fear of people. Such changed appearance and behaviour due to the diseased earned the name 'zombie deer'. It affects several species of hoofed animals. CDC has advised not to hunt any deer and elk that act strange or are found dead.
First identified in a captive deer in the late 1960s, CWD in a wild deer was first detected in 1981. Later it was reported from surrounding areas in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming and has spread over 24 states since then. According to a report by the CDC, though the nationwide occurrence of CWD in free-ranging deer and elk is relatively low, infection rates may exceed 10 per cent in several locations where the disease is established.