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"Zombie Deer" disease spreads across the United States

by Margaret Stewart - news editor
Wed, Feb 27th 2019 01:40 pm
deer disease takeover With the rise of the `Zombie Deer` disease, more people are starting to take notice in the effects of the issue. Across the country, over 20 states have seen a spread of the disease. The mid-west has been the region of the country that has seen more cases of the disease. If this disease spreads further the United States may have a major problem on their hands.
deer disease takeover With the rise of the "Zombie Deer" disease, more people are starting to take notice in the effects of the issue. Across the country, over 20 states have seen a spread of the disease. The mid-west has been the region of the country that has seen more cases of the disease. If this disease spreads further the United States may have a major problem on their hands.

Every day there seems to be another new problem consuming the media. Whether it is a political fallout, a celebrity scandal or a controversial award show, the mainstream media seems to stream stress consistently into the homes of millions of American citizens.

The latest news seems as though horror movies have come to life as there has been an outbreak of Chronic Waste Disease (CWD) in the United States.

CWD has been more commonly referred to as the fatal “Zombie Deer” illness and, so far, has attacked deer and deer-like animals.

According to ABC News, “Zombie Deer” is a prion disease. Prions are “small, abnormal, infectious proteins that cause proteins in the body to fold abnormally, especially in the brain and spinal cord. The disease gets more serious as it progresses, and it is always fatal.”

Many people are concerned about whether or not humans will be able to contract a different strain of the virus and what would happen should anyone contract the disease.

According to NBC News, the Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, Michael Osterholm, believes that this will be the case.

“It is probable that human cases of chronic wasting disease associated with consumption of contaminated meat will be documented in the years ahead,” said Osterholm. “It’s possible the number of human cases will be substantial, and will not be isolated events.”

However, there are many scientists currently conducting research suggesting the disease will not be able to affect humans, at least for the foreseeable future.

The story becomes more apparent and hits a little bit closer to home as reports say the illness has a SUNY connection.

In an interview with USA Today, a professor of biomedical and biological sciences at SUNY Binghamton, Ralph Garruto explained in 2005 around 200 people were exposed to meat from deers that were carrying CWD.

According to The New York Post, “Tainted deer meat was unwittingly served to 200 to 250 [people] at a fire company in Oneida County, New York, on March 13, 2005. The 80 or so mostly white males who ate the venison agreed to participate in the study carried out by the Oneida County Health Department and experts at the State University of New York-Binghamton.”

Garruto took up the research and checks in with the group of participants every two years. He intends to check in again this spring.

The chance that symptoms will occur after this amount of time is unlikely; however, a chance of the disease appearing is always a possibility.

“Researchers examined about 80 people who’ve feasted on the meat of deer that tested positive for chronic wasting disease and found over the course of the six-year study ‘no significant changes in health conditions,’” Garruto said.

With hunting season just behind us, many people are concerned about ingesting meat that had already been tainted by the illness but had not yet begun to show symptoms. The theory of accidental exposure infecting any humans that come in contact with the animal is luckily still only seen in the movies.

“CWD affects deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer and moose,” according to The New York Post. “[The disease] causes the animals to lose weight and walk in repetitive patterns. They also lose their fear of humans and stumble before ultimately dying.”

While there have been a few cases of CWD reported in New York State, the illness has been primarily focused in the Midwestern region of the United States.

According to TIME, the Center for Disease Control (CDCD) reports that “as of January 2019, the disease has been reported in deer, elk and moose in 251 counties in 24 U.S. states, primarily in the Midwest.”

While research isn’t clear as to why the disease is focused mainly upon the midwest — perhaps it is due to the deer population being more dense in that region — the reported incidents on the West and East coasts are considerably fewer.

Fortunately, that means that for the time being Western New York seems to be safe as does Brockport’s extensive deer population.