By Margot Allemand
There is a difference between loving to watch zombie shows and movies and experiencing a real zombie virus here in the United States. Chronic Wasting Disease which has often been called ‘zombie deer virus’ has been in the news since the beginning of this year due to the number of deer dying from it.
Nobody can say when the disease started, but a deer with a very similar symptom of chronic wasting disease was found in the 1960s in Colorado. As of today, the disease has spread in 23 different states as well as two Canadian provinces. CWD is a real concern for the conservationist who is trying to manage the spread and protect the wildlife the best they can.
An infected elk shows the signs of Chronic Wasting Disease.
The zombie deer virus is often seen in adult deer and elk, and in every case it is fatal. The symptom to look for is a significant weight loss during a period of time; animals tend to drink and urinate a lot during the end of their life. Deer can also be seen with their head down, less social with other animals, their facial expression tend to show no emotion, and they can sometimes be found drooling.
“Clinical signs of CWD alone are not conclusive. Other maladies have symptoms that mimic those of CWD. Currently, the only conclusive diagnosis involves an examination of the brain, tonsils or lymph nodes performed after death,” The Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance wrote on their website.
However, Chase Wright, a conservation agent based in Saline County, Missouri, admitted that to this day, no cure had been found. For this reason, it is essential to be careful as the disease can be transmitted through feces, urine or saliva. Because nobody can stop wild animals from moving from one area to the other, it is important to be careful and to know the signs in case you come across a deer with similar symptoms.
To help wildlife and hunters, states have been taking care of infected deer and have listed areas where they have found an animal with CWD. Those locations can be seen online. However, the zone is an approximate radius around the place where an infected animal was found. Although, Wright said that “it does not mean the disease was contained in the zone.”
Conservation specialists and wildlife agencies are working hard toward bringing awareness to the disease as well as learning more about it to try to find a solution. Some states have made testing mandatory for anyone who kills deer or elk. The states affected by CWD have also created a page on their official websites dedicated to the disease.
Josh Hassevoort who has been hunting for 25 years and his wife Beth in their home state of Michigan family, said he has heard of CWD, but has not changed his habits while hunting. For example, he still brings his son with him and so do the people around him.
“It has not been an issue around here. This has never been an issue with any of the deer that have been killed by them. Many of our friends, including us, have used the meat from these deer to feed our families and help others feed their families,” Hassevoort said.
Which is right, although some people may be freaking after the University of Calgary announced that their research has shown that out of five macaques that ate meat dear during three years, three were found affected. According to the researcher the results show that people need to be careful, but it does not necessarily mean that humans can get it too.
“CWD shouldn’t dictate someone’s behavior, it is safe to go outside, it is safe to hunt or eat deer meat because it is obvious when a deer has the disease so it is not something that should prevent people from going outside,” Associate professor of Biology at Missouri Valley College, Waylon Hiler said.