You may have seen it all over the internet like I have, and now it's definitely more real to me after finding out it's right here in Central New York.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a warning about "zombie deer disease" that affects deer, elk, and moose - and have confirmed a case right here in Oneida County.

According to the CDC, CWD (Chronic wasting disease, nicknamed Zombie deer disease) was "first identified in captive deer in the late 1960s in Colorado and in wild deer in 1981. By the 1990s, it had been reported in surrounding areas in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming. Since 2000, the area known to be affected by CWD in free-ranging animals has increased to at least 24 states, including states in the Midwest, Southwest, and limited areas on the East Coast."

Credit: CDC
Credit: CDC

It may take over a year before an infected animal develops symptoms, which can include drastic weight loss, stumbling, listlessness, and other neurologic symptoms. It is fatal to animals and there are no treatments or vaccines.

Recently, it has become a concern of health officials that this disease could be passed on to humans. According to Time Magazine, CWD is related to Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (or the human form of mad cow disease) which scientists believe can be transmitted to humans by eating contaminated meat. Among animals, CWD spreads by contact with contaminated bodily fluids or tissues, or tainted food or water. The CDC mentioned if the disease were to spread to people, it would most likely be through eating of infected deer and elk.

Since there's a confirmed case here in Oneida County, the CDC recommends that hunters and people who eat deer, elk or moose stay aware and reach out for local public health guidance. The CDC also “recommends that hunters strongly consider having those animals tested before eating the meat.” Hunters should also avoid shooting, handling or eating meat from animals that look sick or were found dead; wear gloves while handling carcasses; and minimize exposure to the animal’s organs.

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