Press "Enter" to skip to content

‘Zombie deer’ disease found in 24 states, could spread to humans

“Zombie deer” disease, officially called chronic wasting disease, or CWD, has spread into 24 states and two provinces in Canada, and researchers are worried humans could contract it, given certain circumstances.

The disease is primarily found in free-ranging deer, elk and moose, and has been identified in farmed deer and elk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The illness is fairly low in free-ranging deer and elk, but in some areas where the disease is more established, infection rates can top 10 percent, the CDC reported, and localized infection rates of 25 percent have also been reported. The numbers are even higher in the captive deer population with rates as high as 79 percent or four out of every five deer in at least one captive herd.

As of January 2019, there were 251 counties in 24 states with reported CWD in free-ranging cervids. This map is based on the best-available information from multiple sources, including state wildlife agencies and the United States Geological Survey. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Chronic wasting disease can take as long as a year after infection before symptoms appear, but when they do, they include drastic weight loss, stumbling, listlessness and other neurologic symptoms.