Brits on health alert as ‘zombie deer disease’ could ‘pass to humans’ | World | News

April 23, 2024
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Two hunters have died amid fears they contracted the so-called “zombie deer disease” after eating infected meat.

The US pair died soon after eating deer meat which scientists believe carried chronic wasting disease (CWD).

Now it’s sparked panic that the disease could pass from deer to humans as they both developed similar neurological symptoms as seen in animals.

The disease has been nicknamed “zombie deer disease” as infected deer give a telltale blank stare. It attacks the brain and nervous system, leaving animals drooling, lethargic, stumbling and wasting away.

Experts are worried that it could be a rerun of mad cow disease which also infected humans in the 90s.

Scientists at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio have examined the hunters’ deaths in 2022. Their findings suggest the disease may already be spreading from animals to humans.

In a report published in the journal Neurology, they said: “The patient’s history, including a similar case in his social group, suggests a possible novel animal-to-human transmission of CWD.”

According to The Sun, one of the victims discussed was a 72-year-old man who suffered “rapid-onset confusion and aggression” as well as seizures and died within a month despite treatment. The hunter’s friend also died from the disease but few details about his condition were given – nor was their location.

CWD has been reported in deer, elk, reindeer and moose in areas of North America, Canada and South Korea as well as Norway.

The disease is part of a family of fatal neurological infections which includes Bovine spongiform encephalopathy – which is more commonly known as mad cow disease.

Dr Cory Anderson from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) said the mad cow outbreak in Britain suggested animal-to-human infection could happen.

He told The Guardian: “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.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said studies on the disease have suggested a spillover is possible after observing infections in non-human primates, such as monkeys after they consumed meat from infected animals.

The organisation’s website reads: “These studies raise concerns that there may also be a risk to people.

“Since 1997, the World Health Organization has recommended that it is important to keep the agents of all known prion diseases from entering the human food chain.”



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