The first known case of “Zombie Deer Disease” has been discovered in Yellowstone National Park in the US, according to a report by the Independent. The National Park Service confirmed the presence of the disease in an adult mule deer buck carcass found near Yellowstone Lake. The deer had originally been captured in Cody, Wyoming for a population study, and its death was determined using a GPS collar placed on the animal. The carcass was located on the Promontory, a landmass separating the South and Southeast arms of Yellowstone Lake, and samples were collected for testing. The tests confirmed the presence of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), also known as “Zombie Deer Disease”.
CWD is a contagious and fatal illness that affects cervids, including deer, elk, caribou, reindeer, and moose. It is caused by a malformed protein called a prion, which accumulates in the brain and other tissues, leading to physiological and behavioral changes, emaciation, and eventually death. The disease can be transmitted through direct animal-to-animal contact or indirectly through contact with infectious particles in the environment, such as feces, soil, or vegetation. Animals can also become infected if their feed or pasture is contaminated with the prions. Symptoms in deer may take over a year to develop and typically include drastic weight loss, stumbling, loss of energy, and coordination.
As of now, there is no cure or vaccine for CWD. It has been reported in 31 states in the US, but there is no evidence that it can infect humans or domestic animals. However, the US National Park Service advises against consuming tissues from CWD-infected animals. The disease poses a significant threat to cervid populations, and efforts are being made to monitor and manage its spread.