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Study: Hunters Possibly First in US to Die From 'Zombie Deer' Disease

By    |   Thursday, 18 April 2024 04:15 PM EDT

Two hunters may have become the first Americans to die from a "zombie deer" disease, according to a recent study published in the journal Neurology, the Daily Mail reported.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD), a nearly 100 percent fatal ailment known to affect deer, elk, and other cervids, has long raised concerns about its potential transmission to humans. The study suggests that two individuals who died in 2022 after consuming contaminated venison may have succumbed to the disease.

The report outlines the case of a 72-year-old man who exhibited symptoms including "rapid-onset confusion and aggression," along with seizures, before his death within a month. Posthumous diagnosis revealed Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), a brain-wasting condition likened to Mad Cow Disease, as the cause. The man's hunting companion also perished from the illness, though details regarding his condition remain scant.

CJD, caused by misfolded proteins known as prions, shares similarities with CWD, primarily affecting animals. However, the study posits that the hunters could have contracted CWD due to a shared history of consuming meat from an infected herd.

Research indicates that prions associated with CWD can adhere to environmental components, potentially altering prion characteristics such as infectiousness and the capacity to cross species barriers, potentially affecting other animal species and potentially humans.

While causation remains unconfirmed, the researchers underscore the imperative for further investigation into the potential risks associated with consuming CWD-infected deer and its ramifications for public health.

CWD, dubbed 'zombie deer disease' due to its devastating effects on the brain, leads to symptoms such as drooling, confusion, and an uncharacteristic lack of fear toward humans.

The disease is invariably fatal, with no known cure or vaccine. Transmission mechanisms include consumption of contaminated forage or water and direct contact with bodily fluids or carcasses.

Originating in Colorado in 1967, CWD has since spread to at least 32 states, four Canadian provinces, and several other countries, posing a significant challenge to wildlife management efforts. States like Kansas, Nebraska, and Wisconsin have reported substantial infected deer populations, highlighting the disease's pervasive reach.

As investigations into the potential human transmission of CWD continue, authorities stress the importance of vigilant monitoring and testing to mitigate its spread among wildlife populations and safeguard public health.

Jim Thomas

Jim Thomas is a writer based in Indiana. He holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, a law degree from U.I.C. Law School, and has practiced law for more than 20 years.

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Two hunters may have become the first Americans to die from a "zombie deer" disease, according to a recent study published in the journal Neurology, the Daily Mail reported.
hunters, first, us, die, zombie deer disease
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2024-15-18
Thursday, 18 April 2024 04:15 PM
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