Zombie deer disease.

Zombie deer disease.

April 19, 2024   173

Two hunters reportedly become the first in the U.S. to succumb to the so-called "Zombie Deer" disease.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been reported in wildlife across 32 states in the U.S., as well as in four Canadian provinces and several other countries. The disease affects deer, elk, and moose, and is characterized by symptoms such as weight loss and erratic behavior. It is highly advisable for hunters to have deer meat tested for CWD before consumption. Officials also recommend minimizing contact with deer organs and avoiding animals that appear sick. The exact transmission routes include contact with contaminated body fluids and tissues.


CWD has been identified in wild populations of deer, elk, and moose across a wide range of states in the United States. As of recent data, these include Colorado, Wyoming, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, among others. Each year, the list of affected states can expand as surveillance improves and new cases are discovered.

Safety Instructions for Hunters

To minimize the risk of contracting any disease from wildlife, particularly CWD, hunters are advised to follow these guidelines:

  1. Testing: Have any harvested deer, elk, or moose tested for CWD before consuming the meat. Many states offer testing services through wildlife agencies or universities.
  2. Handling Precautions: Use gloves when field dressing any game. Avoid cutting through bones, the spine, or the brain, where prions are most likely to accumulate.
  3. Avoid Consuming Certain Parts: Do not eat the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils, or lymph nodes of harvested animals. These organs are more likely to harbor prions if the animal is infected.
  4. Observe Animal Behavior: Be cautious around animals that exhibit abnormal behavior or appear sickly. These could be signs of CWD or other diseases.
  5. Equipment Cleaning: Thoroughly clean and sanitize all tools and surfaces that come in contact with game. Bleach solutions can degrade prions and are recommended for disinfecting purposes.

Safety Tips for the General Public

For individuals who live in or visit areas known for CWD, the following precautions can help reduce the risk of exposure:

  1. Educate Yourself: Be aware of the regions with confirmed CWD cases and the symptoms of infected animals.
  2. Avoid Contact: Do not touch or feed wild deer or elk, especially those that seem sick or are displaying unusual behavior.
  3. Report Sightings: If you see an animal that appears sick, report it to local wildlife officials. Do not attempt to handle the animal yourself.
  4. Support Local Management Efforts: Participate in or support wildlife management programs aimed at controlling the spread of CWD, such as population control measures and research initiatives.


What is zombie deer disease? "Zombie deer disease" refers to Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a neurodegenerative disorder that affects deer, elk, moose, and other members of the deer family. Characterized by symptoms such as drastic weight loss, stumbling, listlessness, and neurological issues, CWD leads to death in affected animals. The disease earns its nickname because of the symptomatic appearance of the animals as they deteriorate, often appearing dazed or listless as if zombified.

What causes zombie deer disease? Zombie deer disease is caused by prions, which are misfolded proteins that can induce other normally folded proteins in the brain to also misfold. These abnormal proteins accumulate in the brain and lead to the breakdown of neurological functions. This prion infection is similar to other prion diseases like mad cow disease in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.

What states have zombie deer disease? As of recent reports, Chronic Wasting Disease has been confirmed in wild deer, elk, or moose populations in at least 27 states across the United States, including major outbreaks in Colorado, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. The disease has also been detected in two Canadian provinces, as well as in Norway, Finland, and South Korea among other locations.


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