Zombie Deer Disease Is Spreading Across U.S. and Could Infect Humans Next | 22 Words

Zombies are known for their desire for human flesh and their penchant for taking over the world. They are usually covered in blood, barely recognisable as the people we once knew, and have a funny walk. It makes for a good movie as someone tries to save the world from them.

But now it looks like zombies are here in real life, or at least zombie deer are here. As the Zombie Deer Disease spreads across the US, is anyone safe?

We are all familiar with the concept of zombies.

Zombies have been a regular feature on our screens for years. From atomic radiation to alien invasions, we've seen it all.

It all started with the Night of the Living Dead.

In 1968, George Romero released Night of the Living Dead and in doing so, he kick-started a whole genre of zombie movies. Sure the idea of zombies already existed, but he was the first one to present us with the idea of zombies being people who have come back to life and want to feast on human flesh.

Then the new millennium brought new zombie movies.

In 2002, Danny Boyle released 28 days later, starring Cillian Murphy and Christopher Eccleston. He brought new levels of fear around zombies as these new ones were able to run. The film was so successful that there was a sequel; 28 weeks later, starring Jeremy Renner and Rose Byrne.

Big stars got involved in the zombie world.

In 2007, Will Smith starred in I Am Legend as a sole survivor, along with his dog, trying to find a cure to save humanity. And in 2013 even Brad Pitt got involved. He plays the protagonist in World War Z, as he too struggles to save humanity from a zombie pandemic.

We've seen parodies of zombie films too.

In all-star cast, featuring Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, Amber Heard and even a cameo by Bill Murray, Zombieland is a fantastic comedy-horror movie. The writers of Deadpool wrote this movie, and the way they have subverted the themes shows how familiar they are with the zombie genre.

But, there's one clear winner when it comes to zombie movies.

Shaun Of The Dead is British comedy at its best, as Simon Pegg and Nick Frost deliver dead-pan lines amidst a zombie invasion. Who knew zombies could be so funny?

But this new zombie threat is real.

That's right. There is a real life threat of a zombie disease. It is spreading across America and could affect anyone at any time.

And who is to blame?

There hasn't been an alien invasion (that we know of), nor has there been some sort of atomic radiation. Instead the culprits of this new zombie disease are deer.

Humans could be next.

Usually when we think of deer, we think of Bambi-type fawns frolicking in open fields. Or if it's snowy, we think of reindeer bringing us presents. But these deer are bringing us new gift in the form of a deadly disease.

They wouldn't be the first animals to pass a disease onto humans.

From 1986 cows began to pass a deadly disease onto humans. It was known as mad cow disease.

What was mad cow disease?

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) is a neurodegenerative disease that primarily affects cattle. The symptoms affect the way cows walk, as well as causing weight loss and abnormal behaviour.

Where were these mad cows?

The biggest outbreak of mad cow disease was across the UK. From 1986 through to 2001, 180,000 cattle were affected. There have also been outbreaks in other European countries, as well as in the U.S., Canada and Japan.

How did mad cow disease spread?

Young calves used to be fed meat-and-bone meal (MBM), which contained the remains of other cattle. Some of these older cattle had spontaneously developed it. There is now a law that any cattle over the age of thirty months old cannot enter the human or animal food supply.

How many people did it affect?

Sadly the effect of mad cow disease on humans, known as vCJD (variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease) is deadly. Since 1996, 178 people have died in the UK alone. A further fifty-three people have died in other countries beyond the UK.

How did they stop it?

There was a ban on British beef in Europe, and Canadian beef in North America. They also developed tests that could be done on live cattle, to see if they are infected. However, as a result of the disease, and the subsequent bans, about 4.4 million cows were put down in the UK alone.

And you should always be careful of rabies.

Rabies is a viral disease that is passed from infected animals scratching or biting other animals or humans. It causes inflammation of the brain, which in turn causes confusion, uncontrollable excitement, unconsciousness and, weirdly, fear of water. It is often fatal.

Where are people affected by rabies?

As is so often the case with preventable diseases, sadly more than 95% of human deaths caused by rabies are in Asia and Africa. However, rabies is present in more than 150 countries around the world. In 2015, around 17,400 people died from contracting rabies.

Which animals pass on rabies?

Any animal could pass on rabies in theory. Usually dogs are the most common carrier of rabies. However, in western Europe and Australia, rabies has been eradicated from dogs. In America, bat bites are actually the most common animal to give humans rabies.

Is there a cure for rabies?

These days there is a vaccination that you can receive to treat rabies, but it still only gives you seventy-two hours to get medical treatment. By the time symptoms start to show, it is too late. Only four people in the world have survived rabies at this point.

But the worst disease that spread from animals to humans was the Black Death.

The Black Death, also known as the Great Plague, arrived in Crimea from Central Asia in 1343, and it devastated Europe. It reached Sicily in 1347 and decimated the European population through to 1351. The Middle East suffered at a similar time. It is estimated to have killed between 75-200 million people across Eurasia, which was 30-60% of Europe's total population.

There were different strains of plague.

There were three types of plague; bubonic, septicemic and pneumonic. Symptoms included swollen lymph nodes, fever, chills, vomiting and shortness of breath. The bubonic plague was spread by fleas on animals, usually rats, while the septicemic and pneumonic plagues are thought to have been airborne.

When did the plague finish?

It didn't. Europe continued to suffer outbreaks through to the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century, it spread again from China. It killed ten million people in India alone. There have also been cases in Australia and North America.

Who is still suffering?

Once again, it is the people of Asia and Africa who are still suffering from something that is mostly gone from the developed world. In October 2017 there was an outbreak in Madagascar. It killed 170 people and infected thousands more.

But now humans are facing a new threat.

A new disease is spreading in the animal world and it looks like it could affect humans. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is plaguing deer, elk and moose. Its medical term is Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE), but it is commonly known as Zombie Deer Disease.

Where is this disease?

So far this disease is contained within the U.S. and Canada. However, it is spreading fast. It is known to be in at least two Canadian provinces and twenty-four American states. Currently, it is centred on Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming, although it is felt generally in the mid-West and South-West, and has spread to the East coast.

What are the symptoms?

The fatal disease affects the brain, spinal chord and other tissues, causing weight-loss and a lack of co-ordination, and ultimately death. It also causes a vacant stare in the animals, which is what led to its nickname, Zombie Deer Disease.

How could the Zombie Deer Disease affect humans?

At the moment, it is estimated that roughly 15,000 families in the US are eating meat that is infected with CWD. Given that this is the way that Mad Cow Disease spread, it seems likely that this is how humans could contract Zombie Dear Disease too.

Is there proof that this disease will affect humans?

There are currently no known cases of humans suffering from CWD. But a Mr. Michael Osterhold, who is director of the Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy told law makers to be prepared. Research shows that it can be transmitted to other animals, including primates. So it seems more than feasible that soon humans could be suffering too.

What can we do about it?

Countries outside of the U.S. and Canada will probably place embargoes on their meat, so that it doesn't spread any further. Within North America, it is best not to eat deer and elk tissues such as the brain tissue and spinal chord, as they are known to be danger-areas. Although if you know there's a risk, would you really want to just eat around it?

So watch out!

At the moment, there is little to worry about. Humans haven't yet been affected and it could be fine. But just in case, maybe be a bit more careful if you usually eat deer, moose or elk meat.