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Zombie Deer Disease: The Silent Threat to Wildlife and Health

April 28, 2024

Zombie Deer Disease, scientifically known as Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), is an infectious neurological disorder that affects deer populations. It has garnered significant attention due to its potential impact on both wildlife and public health.


Zombie Deer Disease, caused by a misfolded protein called a prion, belongs to a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). It primarily affects cervids, resulting in progressive neurological deterioration, abnormal behavior and eventually death.


CWD spreads through direct contact with body fluids, saliva, feces or contaminated environments. It can persist in the environment for years, making it highly transmissible within deer populations. Furthermore, the disease can spread to other cervids through both natural and artificial means, such as captive deer facilities and game farms.


CWD has been detected in several parts of North America, including the U.S. and Canada, and cases have been reported in Korea, Norway and Finland. The ability of the disease to spread rapidly poses a major threat to the long-term conservation of deer populations and ecosystems.


No human cases have been reported, but doctors in Texas, USA, recently released a medical case report of the deaths of two hunters who regularly consumed venison infected with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Similar prion diseases, such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), have successfully crossed the species barrier to cause variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) in humans. Therefore, ongoing surveillance and research is essential to assess the potential zoonotic risk posed by CWD.


Effective management and control of zombie deer disease requires a multifaceted approach. These include implementing surveillance programs to monitor the spread of the disease, regulating the movement of captive deer, promoting responsible hunting practices, and raising public awareness of the risks associated with consuming infected meat. In addition, research efforts should focus on developing diagnostic tools, vaccines and effective management strategies to combat the disease.