Scientists have warned that the virus, dubbed 'Zombie deer disease,' could potentially spread to humans. A biologist is pictured removing the lymph nodes from deer to test them for chronic wasting disease - UK Daily Mail

‘Zombie deer disease’ concerns scientists over possible spread to humans

By Fox News

The discovery of Yellowstone National Park’s first case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) last month has raised concerns that the fatal brain disease may someday spread to humans, according to some scientists.

A deer carcass in the Wyoming area of the park tested positive for the highly contagious prion disease that can also cause weight loss, stumbling, listlessness and neurological symptoms, according to the CDC.

It has been spotted in deer, elk, reindeer and moose in areas of North America, Canada, Norway and South Korea.

Symptoms can take up to a year to develop and some have dubbed it the “zombie deer disease” since it changes in the hosts’ brains and nervous systems, leaving animals drooling, lethargic, emaciated, stumbling and with a telltale “blank stare,” according to the Guardian.

It is fatal, with no known treatments or vaccines.

And now scientists are sounding the alarm that it could infect humans, although no known case has ever been recorded.

Epidemiologists say the absence of a “spillover” case yet does not mean it will not happen.

CWD is one of a cluster of fatal neurological disorders that includes Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly referred to as “mad cow disease.”

“The BSE outbreak in Britain provided an example of how, overnight, things can get crazy when a spillover event happens from, say, livestock to people,” Dr. Cory Anderson told The Guardian. Anderson is a program co-director at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP).

“We’re talking about the potential of something similar occurring. No one is saying that it’s definitely going to happen, but it’s important for people to be prepared,” Anderson added.

Temperatures hit minus 6 degrees in rural Derbyshire.

He added that what’s also worrying is that there is no known way to effectively and easily eradicate it, “neither from the animals it infects nor the environment it contaminates.”

Anderson said that once an environment is infected, the pathogen is extremely hard to eradicate. It can persist for years in dirt or on surfaces, and scientists report it is resistant to disinfectants, formaldehyde, radiation and incineration at 1,100 F, according to The Guardian.

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