Wildlife Experts Investigating Contagious And Fatal ‘Zombie Deer Disease’

REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Alexander Pease Contributor
Font Size:

Virginia wildlife experts are probing a contagious and unwaveringly fatal sickness spreading among the forest-dwelling mammals named the “zombie deer disease.”

Once a deer is infected with the neurological illness, known as chronic wasting disease, or CWD, the animal will first become hyperactive before eventually appearing abnormally skinny, moving much more lethargically and salivating excessively, Fox 5 DC reported. There is currently no cure for this contagious sickness.

There are several North American species said to be susceptible to the disease, including mule, white-tailed, red, and black-tailed deer, in addition to elk and moose.

The concern among Virginia’s wildlife experts is, because there is no established cure, the “zombie deer disease” poses a risk to the fitness and well-being of the aforementioned species at large. (RELATED: Two Deer Filmed Swimming A Mile Off The Coast Of Nantucket)

“Infected deer can transmit the pathogen by direct contact including through saliva or by contaminating the environment,” Fox 5 noted.

Examples of contamination include an infected carcass polluting surrounding grass in addition to the everyday risks of infected feces or urine being present (which is considered damaging to a domain), the outlet continues.

Virginia Tech professor in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation and wildlife expert Professor Luis E. Escobar will be leading an investigation of the transmission in the state with a study. (RELATED: Detroit Metro Airport Staff Discover 6 Giant African Snails In Traveler’s Suitcase)

“The goal of this project is to estimate the paths, direction, and extent of future CWD spread in white-tailed deer. The team will use molecular tools to generate information of likely spread of the disease in unprecedented detail in Virginia,” Escobar explained to the outlet.

Currently, there is no record of it being found in humans nor house pets.

The disease was detected in a dead deer in southern Texas as well as within a living baby deer at a deer breeding facility just West of Waco, TX, according to KSAT.

The disease has an “incubation period [that] can last for years, meaning animals who have the disease may go a while without showing symptoms,” KSAT continued. North American game hunters “should test their harvested species for the disease before consuming them” as a precautionary measure, despite the illness reportedly not impacting humans.