Experts are concerned that an outbreak of an affliction nicknamed “zombie deer disease” might jump species and begin to infect humans.
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) infections in deer have been on the rise in the last decade and cases have been discovered in more than two dozen states as well as two provinces in Canada. Outbreaks have even been documented in South Korea and Europe, most notably among Norwegian reindeer.
The disease infects the brain, eroding it and causing the animal to be listless, interact less with other deer, shake uncontrollably, walk repetitively in set patterns, and to be nervous. CWD is always fatal and experts have yet to find a vaccine or a cure.
Although there are no known cases of people contracting the disease, but research suggests it poses a risk to humans. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggested that as a precaution, hunters should avoid eating deer meat known from areas where CWD has been identified.
“It is probable that human cases of chronic wasting disease associated with consumption with contaminated meat will be documented in the years ahead,” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota told USA Today. “It’s possible the number of human cases will be substantial and will not be isolated events.”
CWD is similar to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), more commonly known as ‘Mad Cow Disease’. Public health officials did not think vCJD could infect people but it has since been confirmed that a cureless variant of the disease can adversely impact humans. CWD and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease belong to the same family of diseases known as prion diseases, according to the CDC.
Diseases that affect animals are common, although it is interesting to note that the fifth plague that struck Egypt focused on their livestock, highlighting their dependence on their animals.
Then the hand of Hashem will strike your livestock in the fields—the horses, the asses, the camels, the cattle, and the sheep—with a very severe pestilence. Exodus 9:3
According to Jewish tradition, the ten plagues will be replayed in the final days leading up to the Messiah.