CWD is an always fatal disease in which the brain is full of holes. What is this always lethal state and how do humans fight their spread?

A deadly infectious disease in deer has spread to 24 states as experts warn the disease – unofficially referred to as a "zombie" deer disease – may one day hit humans.

Chronic Illness, CWD In the 24 states and two Canadian provinces, live deer, elk and / or elk have been infested since January, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We are in an unknown area," said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infection Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota on Friday opposite USA TODAY.

Last week, Osterholm warned its state legislators that warned of possible human effects.

"It is likely that cases of chronic waste associated with consumption of contaminated meat will be documented in the coming years," he said. "It is possible that the number of cases in humans will be considerable and will not be isolated cases."

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Osterholm compared the situation in the United Kingdom with the "Mad Cow" disease in the 1980s and 1990s when there were doubts in public that it could spread to humans. In the United Kingdom, 156 people died of "Mad Cow" disease in the 1990s, according to the British news agency The Independent.

No cases of CWD have been reported in humans, but studies have shown that it can be transmitted to other animals According to the CDC, deer, including primates, is the case for humans.

For humans, the consumption of infected deer meat would be the most likely way to extend it to humans, according to the CDC.

It is estimated that 7,000 to 15,000 animals are infected CWD is eaten each year, and according to the Alliance for Public Wildlife cited by Osterholm in its report, this number could increase by 20 percent annually.

Scientists can not say with certainty that CWD will infect and infect humans As time progresses and more infected meat is consumed, the odds increase, Osterholm said.

"It's like a litter at the genetic roulette table," he said.

021519-Chronic Wasting Disease-Zo mbie-deer-US Counties (Photo11: USA TODAY)

CWD is a type of disease known as prion diseases or transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.

"If Steven King could write an infectious disease novel, he would write it about prions," Osterholm told legislators.

In deer, CWD spreads through contaminated body fluids, tissues, drinking water, and food, according to the CDC.

The disease affects the brain and spinal cord due to abnormal prion proteins that damage normal prion proteins, according to the CDC. The cells eventually collect and burst, leaving microscopic empty spaces in the brain that, according to the North Carolina Wildlife Commission, make a spongy impression.

Symptoms that can last over a year include: drastic weight loss (wastage), tripping, lack of coordination, listlessness, drooling, excessive thirst or urination, sagging ears, lack of fear of people, and aggression.

The disease was first detected in captivity in Colorado and wild game in the late 1960s, the CDC said. "According to the health department, CWD could be more prevalent than the assumed 24 states." If CWD once established in an area, the risk can remain in the environment for a long time. The affected areas are expected to continue to grow The CDC says on its website.

However, there are many government regulations designed to prevent people from eating the infected meat.

In North Carolina, anyone who transports deer (animals from the deer family) carcass parts into the state may follow stringent processing and packaging regulations. Indiana has already stepped up its monitoring efforts, though testing is not compulsory.

"If you put this into a meat processing plant … this is a kind of nightmare in the worst case," said Osterholm to the legislature.

While some states are testing, this needs to be done faster and with a more robust infrastructure to prevent infected deer from being consumed.

For hunters, the CDC recommends testing deer before eating their meat in affected areas. If a deer looks or behaves strangely, hunters should not shoot it, treat it or eat its meat, says the health department.

Osterholm said hunters should stay on the hunt, but be careful and comply with state regulations when they are in an affected area. "No one is asking someone to stop the hunt," he said. "People need to understand the meaning of this, we can not wait until the first cases come," said Osterholm to the legislature.


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