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Brain-Eating Zombie Deer Disease Will Likely Spread To Humans

Hundreds of deer, elk, and moose across the United States and Canada have already succumbed the brain-wasting chronic wasting disease (CWD) known as “zombie” deer disease. Now scientists are worried it will cross over to humans who unwittingly eat meat from infected animals. Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease professor from the University of Minnesota, estimates that up to 15,000 infected animals are eaten by humans every year and could rise. “It’s possible the number of human cases will be substantial and will not be isolated events,” he told USA Today. Osterholm likens the potential for human infection to Mad Cow disease which spread across the United Kingdom in the 80s and 90s and which was also a so-called prion disease, which are known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. He warns that eating wild game is increasingly risky. “It's like a throw at the genetic roulette table,” he said. “If Stephen King could write an infectious disease novel, he’d write it about prions.” Symptoms of the disease, which starts in the tissues of the brain and spinal cord, are weight loss, clumsiness, listlessness, excessive thirst and drooling. Animals often exhibit bursts of aggression before collapsing and, eventually, dying.