A deadly and infectious condition know as ‘zombie deer disease’ is said to be spreading rapidly across the US – and humans could be next, an expert has warned.
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is currently plaguing deer, elk and moose across 24 states and two Canadian provinces.
The disease attacks the brain, spinal chord and other tissues in the creature, before ultimately resulting in death.
It also causes dramatic weight-loss, loss of coordination and bouts of hyper-aggression.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most likely method of contraction will be consuming infected meat – much like how Mad Cow Disease emerged.
Currently, as many as 15,000 infected deer are eaten each year – a number that’s expected to rise by 20 percent annually, according to Osterhold.
When asked the chances of humans becoming infected with CWD, Osterhold compared it to a ‘throw at the genetic roulette table.’
So far CWD has primarily blossomed in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming, and it’s been spreading further afield ever since.
Formally called chronic wasting disease, the illness attacks the brain, spinal cord, and other tissues in deer, elk, and moose
It eventually results in death (pictured: an emaciated deer that has died from CWD)
‘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,’ the CDC says.
‘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.’
The disease earned its nickname from the bizarre symptoms it causes, including a vacant stare and exposed ribs as it causes the animal to physically waste away.
‘People have to understand the significance of this. We can’t wait until we have the first cases coming,’ Osterholm said.