Epidemic That is Affecting Deer in Canada: Explained

Infected animals eventually display abnormal behavior and lose control of bodily functions such as walking properly, eating normally and coordination, leaving them typically either dead or unable to survive on their own.

When a deer is infected by CWD, it may lose the following fears of humans and other predators. These deer show other symptoms of illness such as emaciation, excessive thirst and urination, tremors or lack of coordination, high pitched noises and wide-eyed looks.

It is these outward symptoms among animals that led to some people calling CWD infection the ‘zombie disease’. Linking the infection to zombies is even more appropriate because deer can transmit the illness through animal-to-animal contact, especially in urine and saliva.

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 and causing an epidemic.

This epidemic is causing a concern in two Canadian provinces: Alberta and Saskatchewan, the VICE World News reported.

Zombie Disease and Its Outcomes

According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the zombie disease is a prion disease that affects deer, elk, moose, sika deer and reindeer. The disease can affect animals of all ages and can be fatal. At present, there are no treatments or vaccines for the disease.

When a deer is infected, it may lose the fear of humans and other predators. They may show some other symptoms like drooling, poor coordination, stumbling, depression, paralysis and behavior 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.

The Onset and Spread of Zombie Disease

The zombie disease was first detected in a captive deer at a U.S. research facility in the late 1960s. And it was reported that the disease had spread in the wild populations in Colorado, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana. And in Canada, the disease was first found in 1996 in an elk farm in Saskatchewan. It then spread into the wild population. In 2005, the first case in Alberta was confirmed.

Now we’re looking at CWD encroaching on the eastern edges of Edmonton, Red Deer, and Calgary,” Margo Pybus, a researcher and wildlife disease specialist with the Alberta government’s fish and wildlife division, told VICE World News.

Manitoba reported its first case last year of zombie disease despite the fact that the infection has mostly been found in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

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.

Till date, no cases of CWD have been recorded among humans. However, the CDC has recommended testing of the deer before consuming it and refraining from eating the meat if it tests positive.

Source: Medindia

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