NEW DELHI: Scientists are raising alarms about a “zombie deer disease,” a slow-moving but lethal ailment that has recently been detected in Yellowstone National Park. This disease, prevalent in deer and elk, has no cure and might potentially spread to humans.
Understanding ‘zombie deer disease’
Zombie deer disease, scientifically known as Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), primarily affects deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer, and moose. The origin of the term “zombie deer” is unclear. This disease progressively deteriorates the brains of these animals, leading to dementia-like symptoms and eventual death. There are no treatments or vaccines available. CWDs are caused by prions, a type of protein that can withstand destruction and cause progressive neurodegenerative disorders in both animals and humans. The World Health Organization advises against allowing animals infected with known prion diseases, such as CWD, into the human food chain. However, there’s no conclusive evidence that humans can contract CWD prions from animals.
Symptoms and spread
Animals infected with CWD exhibit symptoms like dementia, unsteadiness, drooling, aggression, and weight loss about a year after infection. The disease spreads through bodily fluids like saliva, urine, blood, or feces, and prions can persist in the environment for extended periods.
Geographic occurrence
A deer carcass in Yellowstone National Park tested positive for CWD in mid-November. The CDC reports that, as of November 2023, CWD has been found in at least 31 states in the US and three provinces in Canada, as well as in Norway, Finland, Sweden, and South Korea. The first case of CWD was discovered in Colorado in 1967.
How can CWD be detected
CWD can only be confirmed by testing brain or lymph node samples from dead animals. There is no reliable test for live animals, although some research is underway to develop one. CWD can be prevented by reducing the contact and transmission of prions among cervids and their environment.
Risk to humans
While there have been no reports of CWD transmitting to humans, research suggests it’s a possibility, especially through the consumption of infected meat. The CDC estimates that up to 15,000 animals with CWD are eaten each year in the US Cooking temperatures required to destroy CWD prions are much higher than standard cooking temperatures.
The potential for CWD to jump the species barrier is a significant concern. It could potentially infect livestock, other mammals, birds, or even humans, though no such cases have been reported yet. This possibility mirrors the mad cow disease outbreak in Britain, highlighting the need for preparedness.
According to a Guardian report, Dr Raina Plowright, a disease ecologist at Cornell University, places CWD within the broader context of emerging zoonotic pathogens that are increasingly crossing species barriers due to expanding human settlements and agricultural activities.
Precautions against CWD
The CDC recommends several precautions against consuming meat infected with CWD:
Test hunted animals before consuming their meat.
Avoid deer and elk that appear sick, act strangely, or are found dead.
Use protective gloves when handling internal organs of hunted deer and minimize contact with brain and spinal cord tissues.
Avoid using household utensils for processing deer meat.
Diagnosing CWD in deer can only be done post-mortem, requiring tissue samples from deep within the brain.

Source link

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *