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Zombie Deer Disease in Humans: A Rising Threat Unveiled

Far beyond the blood-spattered realm of horror flicks, there is a real disease making headlines that’s villainous enough to chill your spine – the Zombie Deer Disease. This disease is not just confined to fiction, but a creepy reality currently affecting deer populations across North America. So far, no transmission to humans has been recorded but scientists remain vigilant due to the rapidly spreading nature of this fatal disease.

An Overview of Zombie Deer Disease

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), more colloquially known as Zombie Deer Disease, is a transmissible form of spongiform encephalopathy affecting cervids, a category of animals that include deer, elk, and moose. Unlike the fictitious zombies we’ve grown accustomed to on screen, infected animals don’t chase humans but exhibit alarming behaviors such as staggering, drooling, dramatic weight loss, and a lack of fear of humans, hence the moniker “Zombie Deer”.

Understanding the Transmission and Spread

The Zombie Deer Disease is believed to be caused by prions, misfolded proteins that can trigger normal proteins in the brain to fold abnormally. These prions can be shed into the environment and remain infectious for years. They can contaminate the ground, plants, and even drinking water, affecting greater numbers of animals. As of 2020, CWD has been recorded in 26 U.S. states, three Canadian provinces, as well as South Korea, Norway, Sweden and Finland.

The Threat to Human Health

While the disease is yet to jump from cervids to humans, the possibility is not entirely dismissed. History reminds us of a scenario when bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), a similar prion disease in cattle, jumped to humans causing a variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD). Since the first vCJD case in 1996, 231 deaths have been recorded worldwide. This raises concerns for potential zoonotic, or animal-to-human, transmission of the Zombie Deer Disease.

Research and Preventive Measures

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), testing resilient or hardy deer species such as the white-tailed deer could prove crucial in understanding the ways of transmission and prevention. Hunters are advised to refrain from killing or handling visibly sick animals. As a safety measure, they should ideally test all harvested deer before consuming its meat and avoid eating the brains, spinal cord, eyes, or spleen where prions concentrate. It’s advised to consume meat only from animals that appear healthy and have tested negative for CWD.


While there are no recorded cases of Zombie Deer Disease transmission to humans as of yet, the ever-increasing range of infected cervids across North America warrants continuous and comprehensive surveillance and research. Zombie tropes might make for excellent horror stories, but the reality of these diseases demands attentive, responsible action. Stay informed, stay safe.

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