Admittedly the phrase “zombie deer” sounds like something that would have been on a t-shirt in Hot Topic back in 2004, but this is very serious and not a joking matter.
As of February 17th it was reported that the chronic wasting disease has affected hundreds of deer, moose and elk across 24 states including Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas and Utah.
People who eat meat from the animals possible run the risk of contracting the disease. While no true cases of a chronic wasting disease, as seen in animals, has been reported in humans; research does suggest that people are still at risk for contracting the human form known as Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
This disease is characterized by behavioral changes in the person as well as psychiatric problems, weight loss, abnormalities in speaking, memory loss, seizures and it is also known to be fatal.
Michael Osterholm, an expert in infectious diseases from the University of Minnesota, has estimated that up to 15,000 of these infected animals are consumed by people every year. In an interview with USA Today Osterholm said, “It’s possible the number of human cases will be substantial and will not be isolated events.”
This type of chronic wasting disease is known as a prion disease and is in the same family as Mad Cow. 178 deaths from 1995 to today have been attributed to cases of Mad Cow after the epidemic outbreak during the 1980s and 1990s in the United Kingdom.
The Center for Disease Control provides helpful suggestions for how to best avoid and prevent chronic wasting diseases. Such suggestions include not touching or handling any road-kill. Hunters should also avoid shooting any deer that appears to be acting in a strange manner.
If you see an animal that looks to be sick or acting strangely, take note of where you saw it and contact the local wildlife officials.
Anyone handling an animal that was hunted, or the meat from said animal, should wear rubber gloves and do their best to minimize all time spent being in contact with the animal’s organs- especially the brain and spinal cord tissue.
It should go without saying, but you should wash your hands and disinfect everything that is used when hunting and dressing the animal.
It is better to be safe than sorry, so just don’t mess about with any deer, elk, or other animals in the affected areas. Please stay safe and use good judgment when around any animals and when consuming meat.
Story By: Carlee Jo Blumenthal
Photo By: Ezra Comeau Jeffery on Unsplash