A disease that's turning deer into "zombies" has popped up on the CDC's radar and their response to it has more than a few people freaked out.
There's a kind of perverse fantasy many of us have with the zombie apocalypse. It's probably why games like Resident Evil or shows like The Walking Dead are just so popular.
I don't know what it says about a human being who is seemingly obsessed with the end of days. I get that real life is hard and all and going after your dreams, despite getting constantly slapped in the face by life is tough, but dude, that doesn't mean you have to go and wish everyone in the world gets turned into a zombie so you can go and start busting heads open and killing monsters carte blanche.
As "cool" as this may sound to someone with an edgy middle-schooler's mindset, I'm not really looking forward to this happening, mostly because I know I'd probably get turned into a zombie right away. I really wouldn't want to see what that would do to my skin because I'm self-conscious about that enough as it is.
But a neurodegenerative disease that's popping up in wild animals might give the Doomsday-obsessed their wish.
Chronic Wasting Disease, or, CWD, is a rare disease that's proving to be 100% fatal in every case it's been encountered. Those who are in the hunting and big game industry are well aware of the virus: deer, elk, moose in 24 states in the US and Canada are being affected by CWD.
The symptoms of the disease are something right out of a George A. Romero film: the afflicted experience dramatic weight loss, a lack of coordination, and in some instances, hyper aggression. Ultimately, those affected die.
It's easy to chalk up these fears as alarmist nonsense being played up for media clicks/shares, mostly because we have a sick fascination with the decimation of our own species for some reason. But the director of the Center for Infectious Disease and Research Policy at the University of Minnesota, Michael Osterholm, has said that human beings could very well be affected by CWD.
His statement is chilling:
"It is probable that human cases of chronic wasting disease associated with consumption with contaminated meat will be documented in the years ahead. It’s possible the number of human cases will be substantial, and will not be isolated events."
He made comparisons to CWD and the Mad Cow Disease, which claimed the lives of 178 people in the UK. There were other confirmed cases of Mad Cow deaths around the world with thankfully, much smaller numbers.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed that it's possible the disease could spread to humans, but mentioned that there haven't been any reports of individuals contracting the virus.
While there's been a recent uptick in the number of affected game and wildlife, it's been noted that captive Deer have been recorded as being afflicted with CWD since the 1960s.
If human beings are going to be contaminated with the disease, the CDC believes that it's most likely going to be through the consumption of meat. So if you're a fan of consuming venison you killed the old fashioned way, you may want to steer clear of any gaunt-looking animals you've hunted. In general, it's probably best to stay away from eating anything that looks sickly, but especially in areas like Southern Wyoming, Colorado, where the most cases of CWD has been reported, people should be extra aware.
"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. It is possible that CWD may also occur in other states without strong animal surveillance systems, but that cases haven’t been detected yet. Once CWD is established in an area, the risk can remain for a long time in the environment. The affected areas are likely to continue to expand " the CDC reported.
As of now, a "cure" for CWD hasn't been developed and researchers are stumped on how to treat the virus. Osterholm says he and his team are eager to work on better understanding CWD: "People have to understand the significance of this. We can't wait until we have the first cases coming."
And although there are plenty of comparisons being made to "zombie" films due to the nature of the symptoms caused by the disease, many researchers are scientists are wishing that people would refrain from using that term when referring to the virus. It ultimately affects the brain and spinal chords of the affected. Nothing's coming back from the dead, no we don't have a Thriller scenario on our hands.
There have been instances where a fungus, however, has caused actual zombie symptoms in lifeforms: Fisher. The fungal disease is prominent in ants. The infected insects contract spores that then turn into a fungus that takes over their bodies and minds. Once the fungus has run its course and killed its host, it spread out of the Ants body and falls onto other insects.
Parasitic zombie wasps are another scary zombie creature. It lays its eggs inside the body of an unsuspecting caterpillar. It's larvae then take control of the body of the caterpillar and feed off of it until they form into cocoons. But the caterpillar is still alive: it's just infected and zombified and lives out the rest of its time - its carcass now a bodyguard for the wasp larvae until they mature and propagate their filthy, zombie-spreading selves onto other caterpillars.
Even worse are the Jewel Wasps and what they do to cockroaches.
Man, nature is brutal.