Chronic wasting disease: a deer disaster

Chronic wasting disease: a deer disaster

Some call it the “zombie disease,” so named for the gaunt appearance and dull stare of its victims. And if it’s not brought under control, it could decimate herds of white-tailed deer and other cervidaes (PRONOUNCED SER-VEH-DEES).

Chronic wasting disease, or CWD, is an infection that targets deer, elk and moose. Infected animals may not show signs for a year or more but most eventually lose weight and develop worsening neurologic signs.

CWD has been found in at least 24 states in the continental United States and it shows no signs of abating. The prion particles that cause the disease last a long time in the environment, and there’s no treatment and no effective vaccination.

CWD has not been reported in people, but other primates have been shown to be at risk. To be safe, all hunters should have deer meat tested before it’s consumed.

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