• Shederrian Jones

Zombie Deer Disease spreading in North America

In North America, deer have been dying from a mysterious disease. The disease destroys the animals' nervous system. The AJC reports that this disease has scientists worried that it may get to humans and infect them, as well.

Zombie Deer Disease, or Chronic Wasting Disease, was first discovered in Fort Collins, Colo., in 1967. Since then, the disease has infected many deer herds in 25 other states and Canada.

In October 2018 in Michigan, a baby deer that was killed tested positive for the disease. In addition, another two deer in Mississippi tested positive. Chronic Wasting Disease spreads from animal to animal through prions. Prions are misfolded proteins that cause surrounding proteins to misfold around them.

Usually different prion diseases only harm certain species, but they can evolve to overcome the limits. In most animal herds, almost half the animals carry prions. However, prions aren’t only transmitted through contact.

According to the New York Times, sick animals can spread prions through plants and soil. Both plants and soil can be coated with the prions for years or decades. Any animal infected can live for two years before any symptoms are visible. Symptoms are vacant stares, thick saliva, exposed ribs, or drooping heads.

Despite there not being any reports of humans getting the disease, wildlife officials want to take precautions. In Colorado and Pennsylvania, wildlife authorities want hunting regulations to stop the spread of the disease in their local deer populations.

Researcher Mark Vabel, associate director of Colorado State University’s Prion Research Center, believes the only way to get rid of CWD are through controlled fires.