24 USA states and two Canadian provinces have seen an outbreak of chronic wasting disease amongst free-ranging mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, and moose, and there are growing concerns that the fatal degenerative disease could spread to humans over time.
More than 20 states across the United States have already reported cases of a brain-wasting animal disease that now has no vaccine or treatment.
In the case of CWD, the protein damage causes holes to develop in the brain of the infected animal, leading to symptoms which may include drastic weight loss (wasting, ) stumbling, listlessness, drooling, a lack of fear and aggression.
CWD has no treatment and is 100 percent deadly. It has been confirmed as far east as NY state.
Scientists think that the abnormal prions responsible for causing CWD spread between animals through either direct or indirect (contaminated food, soil or water) contact with bodily fluids, such as feces, saliva, blood or urine.
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To date, there have been no reported cases of CWD infection in people.
No case of CWD has yet been reported in humans, but research suggests there is potential risk. Studies are being carried out to see if CWD could occur more frequently in people who are at a higher risk of coming into contact with animals infected with CWD.
Recently, it has become a concern of health officials that this disease could be passed on to humans. "It's possible the number of human cases will be substantial and will not be isolated events". The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited a 2017 study that found evidence that monkeys that ate infected deer meat contracted the disease.
Osterholm compared the situation to the mad cow disease that killed cattle in the United Kingdom in the 1980s and 1990s. 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.
If animal tests positive for CWD, do not eat meat from the animal.