The deer population in Canada’s western regions has come under threat of a strange, debilitating and highly communicable infection that is spreading like wildfire.
The epidemic chronic wasting disease (CWD) is raging among the deer population in the prairies and parklands and is a concern in two Canadian provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan, the VICE World News reported.
Why ‘zombie’ disease?
When a deer is infected by CWD, it may lose the fear of humans and other predators. They may show some other symptoms like drooling, poor coordination, stumbling, depression, paralysis and behaviour changes. As a result of these outward symptoms, people often refer to CWD as ‘zombie disease,’ a name apt in this case as the illness can be transmitted through animal-to-animal contact.
Onset and spread
The disease was first detected in a captie deer at a research facility in the US in the late 1960s. It later spread in the wild populations in Colorado, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana, the report said. In Canada, the disease was first found in 1996 in an elk farm in Saskatchewan. It then spread into the wild population.
Are humans at risk?
According to the CDC, humans can acquire the disease if they consume an infected deer or elk. Hunters are particularly vulnerable to the disease as the infection may enter their body due to improper handling of the carcass. They may even get infected by consuming deer meat.