Zombie Deer’ Disease May Have Claimed First American Victims

Two Wyoming hunters may be the first Americans to die from “zombie deer” disease. This follows warnings that the illness, which is almost always fatal in deer, could jump to humans.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) causes deer to become confused, drool and lose their fear of humans according to the Daily Mail. A recent study suggests the long-feared spread to humans may have already begun.

A 72-year-old man, one of the possible victims, suffered confusion, unusual aggression and seizures before dying within a month of showing symptoms. He was initially diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), similar to Mad Cow Disease.

The man’s friend, also a hunter, died from CJD as well. Although his death has not been closely studied, there are suspicions that both hunters ate venison from a deer herd possibly infected with CWD.

Texas researchers say that while the exact cause is still uncertain, further investigation is needed to determine the risks of consuming meat from infected animals. CWD is a major concern for hunters across the country even as some experts claim it poses no threat to humans.

The disease has the potential to decimate deer populations and ruin a beloved pastime. Several states have isolated and culled infected deer herds to contain outbreaks.

Joe Phillips, a regular hunter who works at Marks Outdoor Sports in Hoover, Alabama, told WVTM 13 that he doesn’t think hunters are overly worried about the outbreak. “You just hope it’s isolated up there and in control,” he said.

However, Phillips acknowledged that an outbreak in Alabama would likely cause the number of hunters to drop. “And it might make people just want to, you know, pass up deer hunting for a little while until it’s corrected. We don’t want that.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that CWD has been detected in 436 counties across 32 states.

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