Zombie deer arriving in New Jersey

Recently, the United States has been dealing with Chronic Wasting Disease which affects deer, elk, moose, and reindeer. The disease has recently become a global topic of discussion as it impacts multiple regions of the world. In the past few months, New Jersey has seem cases of CWD in nearby territory, possibly making it the 24th state to be affected.

“We have every reason to suspect that chronic wasting disease could pass to humans”.”

— Mark Zabel, Associate Director at the Prion Research Center

CWD is linked to another disease called bovine spongiform encephalopathy,  also known as “Mad Cow Disease” which devastated farms in 1993. Since 1997, the state of New Jersey has tested over 8,000 deer, all of which did not test positive for the disease. Though there haven’t been any deer that have tested positive for CWD in New Jersey there have been deer seen as close as Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and government officials believe that there is a chance that 1% of the adult deer population could be affected in the coming months.

Although the disease has only been seen in animals such as deer, elk, and moose scientists believe it could possibly spread to humans. When asked about the disease, Mark Zabel the Associate Director at the Prion Research Center said, “We have every reason to suspect that chronic wasting disease could pass to humans.”  Scientists theorize that if humans consume the meat of affected deer they could get the disease. This prediction is based on the mad cow epidemic, during which humans who drank the milk and/or consumed the meat of affected cows tested positive for the disease. Symptoms associated with CWD in humans are drastic weight loss, lack of coordination, drooling, lack of energy, and “blank” facial expressions.

Since the 1970s, Mad Cow Disease affected many animals, such as domestic sheep. It is believed that deer came in contact with the infected sheep, transferring the disease to the deer population. Today, about 1 out of 10 deer have CWD in the states that have been affected.