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Hunters died after eating contaminated deer meat

Vaseline 2 months ago

The recent report of two hunters who developed neurological diseases after eating contaminated deer meat has scientists concerned that ‘zombie deer disease’ could spread to humans like mad cow disease.


Two hunters who ate meat from deer known to suffer from chronic wasting disease – or ‘zombie deer disease’ – developed similar neurological conditions and died, raising concerns that the disease could be passed from animals to humans.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was found in deer in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming in the 1990s and has been recorded in free-ranging deer, elk and moose in at least 32 states in all parts of the continental US, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Deer infected with CWD may be called “zombie deer” because the disease causes weight loss, lack of coordination, stumbling, lethargy, weight loss, drooling and lack of fear of people.

Scientists and health officials are concerned that CWD could jump to humans, as mad cow disease did in the United Kingdom in the 1990s. In 2022, scientists in Canada published a study based on mouse research that indicated a risk of CWD transmission to humans.

Here’s what you need to know about chronic wasting disease and whether you should worry about it.

Researchers identify a disturbing case that leaves two dead

Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio have reported how two hunters who ate venison from a deer population known to have CWD died in 2022 after developing sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) , a neurological disease such as CWD.

The second man to die, aged 77, suffered from “rapid onset confusion and aggression”, the researchers said, and died within a month despite treatment.

“The patient’s history, including a similar case in his social group, suggests possible new transmission of CWD from animals to humans,” they wrote in the case report, presented earlier this month at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. and published in the peer-reviewed journal Neurology.

Investigators did not say where the men lived or hunted. But the highest concentration of CWD-infected deer is found in Kansas, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Wyoming, according to CDC and USA. Geological survey reports.

Due to the difficulty in distinguishing between the diseases, researchers said the case does not represent a proven case of transmission. However, “this cluster highlights the need for further research into the potential risks of consuming CWD-infected deer and its public health implications,” they wrote.

‘Zombie deer disease’: What you need to know about chronic wasting disease and its spread in the US.

What is ‘zombie deer disease’? What are prion diseases?

Also known as chronic wasting disease, “zombie deer disease” is a prion disease, a rare, progressive and fatal neurodegenerative disorder that affects deer, elk, moose and other animals, the CDC says.

In prion diseases, the abnormal folding of certain “prion proteins” leads to brain damage and other symptoms, according to the CDC. Prion diseases, which usually evolve quickly and are always fatal, can affect humans and animals.

Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (CJD) and variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (vCJD), a form of mad cow disease, are prion diseases that occur in humans.

Mad cow disease is an example of a prion disease that can spread from livestock to humans, and some researchers have compared it to “zombie deer disease.”

For example, with mad cow disease, it usually took four to six years from infection for cattle to show symptoms, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Deer can have an incubation period of up to two years before symptoms appear. So the animals could have the disease but appear normal until the onset of symptoms, such as weight loss, notes the US Geological Survey.

The development of vCJD in humans in the wake of mad cow disease – its official name is bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE – from eating meat from infected cattle has scientists concerned about the possible transmission of chronic wasting disease (CWD) to humans.

Can ‘zombie deer disease’ be transmitted to humans?

Although there has been no confirmed case of deer-to-human transmission of “zombie deer disease,” concerns have increased since officials found CWD in a dead deer in Yellowstone National Park in November.

“To date, there has been no transmission from deer or elk to humans,” Jennifer Mullinax, associate professor of wildlife ecology and management at the University of Maryland, told the BBC. “However, given the nature of prions, the CDC and other agencies have supported all efforts to keep any prion disease out of the food chain.”

If CWD were transmitted to humans, it could cause a “potential crisis” similar to what caused mad cow disease, Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told the BBC.

“It is important to note, however, that BSE and CWD prions are structurally different and we do not yet know whether the pathology and clinical presentation would be similar if CWD transmission were to occur in humans,” he said.

Meanwhile, the chronic disease continues to spread to more states, the most recent of which is Indiana. The disease was discovered earlier this month in a male white-tailed deer in the northeastern part of the state, which borders a part of Michigan where CWD had previously been detected, according to the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

The US Geological Survey on Friday updated its tracking of chronic wasting diseases to include 33 states (with the addition of Indiana), as well as four Canadian provinces and four other countries (Finland, Norway, Sweden and South Korea).

Contributors: Sara Chernikoff and Julia Gomez.

Follow Mike Snider on X and Threads: @mikesnider & microphone snider.

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