The Zombie Deer Disease

deer (c) Berg, W J (CC0)

What is it?

The chronic wasting disease, also known as the zombie deer disease, affects the neurological state of deer’s such as white-tailed deer, mule deer, reindeer, moose and elk. This illness is classified under prion disease which means that it basically causes abnormal folding of the prion proteins and leads to rapidly progressive brain damage and eventually death seeing that there is no cure.

spreading map (c) National Wildlife Health Center (CC0)

When did it begin?

It all started in the 1960’s when the first ill deer was spotted in Colorado. Since then, the disease has spread out to 24 American states, 2 Canadian provinces, Norway and South Korea.

What are the symptoms?

  • drastic weight loss (wasting)
  • stumbling
  • lack of coordination
  • listlessnes
  • drooling
  • excessive thirst or urination
  • drooping ears
  • lack of fear of people

How can it be transmitted?

Experts believe that chronic wasting disease can be transmitted to other animals and humans through the bodily fluids of the sick animal such as blood, saliva, feces and urine. For instance, other animals might catch the illness if they come in contact with contaminated soils or water. And humans might contract the disease if they consume the infected animal. Scientists also believe that the prions can stay in the soil for long periods of time, even after the infected animal itself dies, which can lead to an epidemic

This may not be the beginning of a zombie apocalypse, but it sure is something scary that could possibly kill humans just as it did during the mad cow epidemic. This is why we have to start being more cautious when we go camping or hunting, as there is always a chance that we might come in contact with infected animals or contaminated areas. In the end, I hope that the outbreak will not reach B.C., although it is quite possible seeing that both Alberta and Sascatchewan, our neighbours, have this problem.


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