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Zombie deer disease: what it is and the spillover risk to humans

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Zombie deer disease: what it is and the spillover risk to humans

Fear of Species Shift in USA Due to Chronic Wasting Disease

In the United States, concern is growing over the spread of chronic wasting disease, also known as zombie deer disease. This disease affects cervids and is caused by a prion, a mutated protein molecule that can infect other proteins, similar to mad cow disease.

Zombie Deer Disease: Symptoms

Chronic wasting disease is currently only affecting cervids and is fatal in all cases. Infected deer exhibit symptoms such as drooling, lethargy, a fixed and glassy gaze, stumbling, mimicking the movements of a zombie – hence the nickname “zombie deer disease.”

Concern in the United States

First isolated in Colorado in 1967, chronic wasting disease has been a cause for worry. The disease has been spreading, with 800 reported cases in Wyoming and reaching Yellowstone National Park, home to the largest cervid population in the country.

Spillover Risk

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns about the potential spillover of chronic wasting disease to other species. The disease, caused by a prion, could potentially affect mammals other than cervids, and even pose a risk to humans. While there have been no reported cases in humans yet, the possibility remains a concern.

Global Impact

Although primarily seen in the United States, chronic wasting disease has also been detected in Europe, with cases reported in Norway, Sweden, and Finland since 2016, indicating a global spread.

As the fear of a species shift looms due to chronic wasting disease, authorities are on high alert to prevent further spread and protect vulnerable populations.

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