Earlier this year, an infectious disease expert warned that a deadly disease found in deer could infect humans in the near future.
Often referred to as “zombie deer” disease because of the symptoms, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been reported in at least 26 states in the continental United States and in four provinces in Canada. In addition, CWD has been reported in reindeer and/or moose in Norway, Finland, and Sweden, and a small number of imported cases have been reported in South Korea. The disease has also been found in farmed deer and elk.
To view a map that shows the distribution of CWD in North America, click here: Expanding Distribution of Chronic Wasting Disease
CWD was recently detected in a herd of deer in Canada.
On July 26, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirmed a case of CWD in a herd of white-tailed deer, reports Global News:
An Alberta deer farm recorded Canada’s third case of a so-called “zombie deer disease” last month.
While the chronic wasting disease (CWD) outbreak was contained — and no infected meat entered the Canadian food supply — experts say more needs to be done to stop the infectious disease from spreading.
The herd was “humanely destroyed on site and did not enter the food chain,” the agency told Global News in a statement. “[The farm] remains under quarantine and disease response activities have been initiated.”
This is the third case of CWD in Canada for 2019. The two other infections were also identified in Alberta — on Feb. 28 in elk and on June 21 in white-tailed deer. (source)
Before we discuss why this news is important, let’s back up a bit and talk about what CWD is and how it may eventually impact the food supply.
What is CWD?
CWD is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy disease found in deer, elk, moose, reindeer, and caribou. It is a progressive disease that is always fatal.
The disease is believed to be caused by abnormal proteins called prions, which are thought to cause damage to other normal prion proteins that can be found in tissues throughout the body. They are most often found in the brain and spinal cord, leading to brain damage and development of prion diseases. Infected brain cells eventually burst, leaving behind microscopic empty spaces in the brain matter that give it a “spongy” look.
Prions are misfolded proteins that are somehow infectious (we’re still not really sure how or why) and for which we have no treatments or cures. If you were to catch one, you’d basically deteriorate over the course of several months, possibly losing the ability to speak or move, and eventually you would die. Doctors wouldn’t be able to do anything to save you. (source)
The disease is believed to spread through saliva, urine, or feces from live deer or through contact with high-risk parts such as the backbone, eyes, or spleen of harvested deer. The disease can spread through the natural movement of deer but it spreads farther and quicker when humans move the deer.
Symptoms develop slowly – sometimes taking years to appear – and include stumbling, lack of coordination, drooling, lack of fear of people, and aggression.
Can CWD be transmitted to humans?
While there is no direct scientific evidence to suggest that CWD can be transmitted to humans, the CFIA says the consumption of meat from contaminated animals should be avoided.
However, some experts say CWD is a concern because the disease is adapting and may become a serious threat:
Darrel Rowledge, the director of Alliance for Public Wildlife, said CWD shouldn’t be discounted as an animal-only problem.
Rowledge said that while it’s difficult for a disease to jump from one species to another, signs the disease is evolving are alarming.
“Just because it hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean that it hasn’t happened,” he said. “A majority of our diseases have evolved to a place where they can infect people.
“We think about 70 percent of our diseases have come to us from other animals.” (source)
Rowledge’s warning echoes that of another expert. Earlier this year, Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told lawmakers that CWD should be treated as a public health issue. Osterholm (who sat on a panel of experts tracking the emergence of mad cow disease, or BSE, decades ago) issued this warning during a hearing:
“It is my best professional judgment based on my public health experience and the risk of BSE transmission to humans in the 1980s and 1990s and my extensive review and evaluation of laboratory research studies … that it is probable that human cases of CWD associated with the consumption of contaminated meat will be documented in the years ahead. It is possible that number of human cases will be substantial and will not be isolated events.” (source)
While he is aware that skeptics will accuse him of fear-mongering, Osterholm said, “If Stephen King could write an infectious disease novel, he would write about prions like this.”
There is a very similar disease that has already killed people.
As we reported earlier this year, Osterholm noted that for years, many public health and beef industry experts did not believe a similar disease – bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, also known as “mad cow disease” – could infect people:
In 1996, researchers found strong evidence that BSE can infect humans as a variant known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).
Since 1996, more than 230 vCJD cases have been identified in 12 countries, 178 of them in the United Kingdom, 27 in France, and four in the United States. Just last fall, a case of mad cow disease was confirmed in Scotland, reports Food Safety News.
Also important to note: Hunters in Kentucky contracted a version of spongiform encephalopathy from squirrels in the 1990s. (source)
CJD has killed several people. Some of the victims consumed venison – and their cases progressed rapidly. To read about those cases, please see Can “Zombie Deer” Disease Kill Humans? Research Suggests It ALREADY HAS.
Rowledge is one of 30 experts from across North America who sent a letter to the Canadian federal government in June, urging the prime minister to “mandate, fund and undertake” a number of “emergency directives” to contain the disease, prevent human exposure and expand its surveillance program of prion diseases, Global News reports:
The letter — signed by scientists, hunting groups and Indigenous advocates — labeled the spread of CWD an epidemic.
“While no human cases of CWD have been confirmed, scientists note that while low, the risk is not zero — and it is evolving,” the letter reads.
“Thousands of CWD-infected animals are being consumed by hunters and their families across North America every year. Even a single transfer to a person — proving that humans are susceptible — would bring catastrophic consequences with limited options.”
Rowledge and the other experts used mad cow as an example of what can happen when diseases evolve.
“The notion that there is insufficient proof that CWD will transfer to humans is deceptive and irresponsible, just like BSE… With the BSE inquiry, one of its key lessons was that they said that they should not have been waiting for a person to die.” (source)
There haven’t been any documented cases of CWD in Manitoba, but the government there is planning to build a health lab in Dauphin to detect the disease because experts believe it will eventually arrive in the province, CBC News reports:
Manitoba Sustainable Development posted a request for proposals online late last month to build the Dauphin Big Game Health Laboratory.
The province already has a lab in Dauphin as part of its disease surveillance programs, and chronic wasting disease is the main concern, a Sustainable Development spokesperson said.
Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological disease related to mad cow disease and there’s no known cure.
The province has extended the surveillance zone for the disease, in which hunters are required to submit heads of their kills for analysis. The province anticipates a rise in samples, the provincial spokesperson said. (source)
Brian Kotak, managing director of the Manitoba Wildlife Federation, told CBC News that a growing body of research suggests the diseased proteins found in deer infected with chronic wasting disease may impact human health when consumed. That’s one reason he’s pleased the province is working to build a lab. “That’s fantastic news and really proactive on their part,” he said.
There are a few things you need to know about CWD.
A 2017 study titled Chronic wasting disease: Emerging prions and their potential risk states that “CWD is one of the most contagious prion diseases”.
Plants can act as a carrier of CWD because they can uptake prions from contaminated soil and transport them to different parts of the plant.
An infected animal can shed the disease a lot over a year (via urine and feces), and its decomposing body can further infect the soil and therefore the plants.
Killing CWD is impossible. Antibiotics do not kill CWD. Neither does cooking.
To give you an idea of just how persistent prions are: In 1985, the Colorado Division of Wildlife tried to eliminate CWD from a research facility by treating the soil with chlorine, removing the treated soil, and applying an additional chlorine treatment before letting the facility remain vacant for more than a year. Those efforts failed – they were unsuccessful in eliminating CWD from the facility.
CWD prions are accumulating, and prions have a long incubation period — sometimes as long as 30 to 40 years in humans. A person can be infected and not know it for decades.
Here’s how you can avoid infection with CWD.
While CWD is scary and is spreading through cervids in North America, this doesn’t mean that you must completely avoid game. However, you have to be careful.
The CDC offers some guidelines for hunters:
Hunters harvesting wild deer and elk from areas with reported CWD should check state wildlife and public health guidance to see whether testing of animals is recommended or required in a given state or region. In areas where CWD is known to be present, CDC recommends that hunters strongly consider having those animals tested before eating the meat. (source)
In addition, the agency advises hunters to avoid eating meat from deer and elk that look sick or test positive for CWD. They should wear gloves when field-dressing carcasses and minimize the handling of brain and spinal cord tissues. As a precaution, they should avoid eating deer and elk tissues known to harbor the CWD agent (e.g., brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils, lymph nodes) from areas where CWD has been identified.
In addition, hunters should wash their hands and instruments thoroughly after field dressing is completed. When taking the game to be processed, they should request that their animal is processed individually, without meat from other animals being added to the meat from their animal.
If hunters notice animals that are unusually thin and exhibit behavior such as having trouble walking, as well as those acting tame around humans and allowing someone to approach them, they should notify their state wildlife agency.
The CDC also states that “a negative test result does not guarantee that an individual animal is not infected with CWD, but it does make it considerably less likely and may reduce your risk of exposure to CWD.”
Is this how the real zombie apocalypse starts?
Will prions be the agent that wipes out humanity decades from now? Have any cases of CWD been detected in your area? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
About the Author
Dagny Taggart is the pseudonym of an experienced journalist who needs to maintain anonymity to keep her job in the public eye. Dagny is non-partisan and aims to expose the half-truths, misrepresentations, and blatant lies of the MSM.
There has been a small deer in the news lately here on the west coast of lower Michigan. It has walked among the people on a crowded beach, as well as a private marriage proposal crasher, acting tame and unconcerned. The news channels have portrayed it in their normal puff piece fashion of being oh, SOOO cute.
Hearing of CWD now, and knowing how UNinformed the “news” commentators are, I admit I can’t help but feel a little concerned now…
From your description, this could be an area where there are infected deer. See the map here: https://www.usgs.gov/centers/nwhc/science/expanding-distribution-chronic-wasting-disease?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects
If you are concerned, the first thing I would recommend is contacting the local office of your state department that oversees wildlife. I don’t know what it’s named in MI, but in different states I’ve lived in it’s Fish and Game, Game and Fish, and just plain Wildlife. I would ask if they’ve heard the reports about this deer and if it, or others in that specific area, have been checked for CWD.
Before you get too concerned, keep in mind, just like people, animals have different backgrounds and personalities. This deer may just have been born in the area, is used to being around people, and doesn’t fear them. Unfortunately, people tend to feed animals that don’t run away from them, leading to them becoming more tame, even to the point they become a nuisance.
In some parts of MI one in three deer have cwd and it appears this deer is in that zone. There was a deer filmed in MO last week that literally walked through campfires, entered a stream, and proceeded to drown itself. I’ve studied/watched wild deer behavior year round and never have seen a deer act that way. It was recovered by the MDC for testing but so far no report back. EHD has been showing up in areas near where this deer was filmed so it could be an explanation. It was crazy watching that deer attempt to walk across the bottom of the stream in water well over his head. Almost cartoonish
The government knows that when the balloon drops and many preppers decide to go off the grid and survive in the woods and the government has made that prospect more and more difficult by introducing diseases and mass killoffs of millions of wild animals to deter this prospect from happening thereby keeping the survivalists within their grasp when it all goes south.
there is a similar disease which affects sheep.
with the exception of squirrels and people, these animals are all ruminants. i wonder if that has something to do with it?
since the prion concentration is in the spinal column and brain, i avoid gelatin. boiling bones is how gelatin is made. one “mad” cow whose bones are boiled with 100,000 others would contaminate the whole batch. no thanks. when i want gelatin as a thickener, i use the more expensive vegetarian kind made from seaweed.
Everything I’ve read in the popular media as well as in the survivalist/self-sufficiency community about prions, CWD and mad cow disease has all been fear porn. None of the popularized articles addresses how to destroy prions or decontaminate an infected area.
While humans have recently become aware of prions and the neurological damage they can cause, research has discovered that prions are actually a very ancient biological form, and they are present in soil, fungi, bacteria, yeast and plants as well as humans and animals. Not all prions are infectious or cause neurological disease.
Most articles present prions as immortal and indestructible. So I did a little research and found some credible sources which give brief mention of this issue. The most helpful paper I found was published by Zabel & Ortega at the Prion Research Center at Colorado State University on May 31, 2017.
Zabel & Ortega’s paper briefly mentions that prion contamination in soil can be reduced and/or eliminated by composting, inoculating with microbial communities, and/or ozonating the soil.
“Microbial communities in soil,compost, and lichens also demonstrate significant reductions of prion titers. Thus, natural and cultivated microbial communities may mitigate some, but not all, environmental prion contamination.”
“Robust prion oxidation by ozone treatment also reduces prion infectivity in SRM and contaminated wastewater, by several orders of magnitude”
The article also mentions montmorillonite and kaolinite clays as being able to bind the prions very tightly, decreasing their bioavailability – EXCEPT if inhaled as dust, in which case the prions are unbound and rapidly transmitted to the animal’s brain.
So, prions aren’t immortal or indestructible, and there ARE ways to decontaminate areas which have been contaminated with prions. On GreenMedInfo, I found abstracts for papers indicating that certain nutrients can ameliorate, prevent or reverse prion-induced disease. Not being a paying member, I don’t have access to the papers, but here are the titles of the abstracts:
“Curcumin exhibits anti-transmissible spongiform encephalopathy activity” May 01, 2003
“CBD may represent a promising new anti-prion drug” Sept 04, 2007
“Curcumin inhibits conversion of prion protein in vitro” Feb 29, 2008
“Resveratrol protects against prion protein-induced neuronal cell death” Nov 11, 2010
“Rutin may be a promising neuroprotective compound for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases” Dec 31, 2017
Also, despite the fact that symptoms of prion-related disease can take decades to appear, there is a new skin test being developed which can detect prions before any symptoms appear:
I am posting this information because none of the popular article leave readers with any hope of survival, and instead create a sense of hopelessness and despair. I don’t resonate with victimhood, so I dug these papers up and am posting them here for perspective. Prions aren’t new, it’s just that scientists have only recently begun to study them. It’s not the end of the world, only a new chapter in biological science.
BRAVO Sandy…well said. I do know this…manufactures of lab equipment are incredibly frightened by prions. I can not send equipment back for repair without signing a document attesting to my thorough decontamination of said device.
Great comment and impressive research! Good to see someone countering the fear mongering tendency in these kinds of articles. There are no diseases without a natural cure, though maybe some are yet to be found…
This ‘PRION’ spread disease is just like bovine spongiform encephalopathy…mad cow disease…called Jacob Cruthfields disease in humans. Prions, not like bacteria or viruses, are relatively new on the epidemic scene; I don’t believe they’re even understood. Prions–living? dead? something else? These aberrant proteins mystify. Mad deer disease will take 10-15 years to show up after consuming infected meat. Your brain will become like Swiss cheese, full of air pockets as brain tissue is destroyed. No cure, no survival.
This scary article, dated today, August 17th, begins with this lead paragraph:
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s decision to allow meat from farms with disease-infected deer herds to enter the Canadian market could lead to potential risks for humans, multiple experts say.
It’s worth reading.
If this is how a Zombie apocalypse starts you better have a lot of ammo and some good-working guns. It just might be like those Hollowood movies portray. Maybe that’s why they want you disarmed?
Just STOP with the goofy sensationalistic “zombie” crap. It adds NOTHING to the content.
Just give the facts, and leave it at that. People are capable of forming their own opinions (most of ’em, anyway) without your “encouragement”.
I agree with Falcon101
It is high time the Interior Department quit importing wild animals at great expense from Canada and elsewhere into our suburbs. They may be bringing animals with this disease. Besides, we don’t need Moose and other animals that were hunter to extension earlier for good reasons.
CWD has been common for decades. The meat can be consumed. You’d have to live outside of the hunting community to not know about it.
Are you thinking EHD and confusing it with CWD? CWD was discovered in CO in the 60’s yes but didn’t become an issue in the whitetail deer hunting world until the early 2000’s. If you wish to feed others and consume untested deer more power to you. That’s a chance I can’t take.
You’ve got to be thinking of something else, Jeff. You couldn’t pay me enough to go near a deer with CWD, much less feed it to my family. I just have to make this very clear to readers: We here at TheOrganicPrepper.com strongly caution you against consuming or coming into contact withany animal that is diseased, particularly if it’s Chronic Wasting Disease.
If you run across a dead or dying deer, notify authorities to come on location. Do not try to transport animal to them. It has happened before that the authorities will attempt to take your wheeler, trailer, and anything associated with contact and transport. You could find yourself in an expensive legal battle. And of course the safety measures for yourself and family.
Meat processers are facing this reality and many in my area of MO and IA have decided to stop processing deer out of an abundance of caution. It’s even impacting Share the Harvest donations to food banks.
Eventually this will be everywhere unless steps are taken to reduce transmission. Even hunters are fighting the only known control methods which is targeted culling once a infection has been detected. Research also indicates it’s more prevelant in older age class males, the ones with big antlers everyone is after and herd management promotes. Filming big deer hunting is big business and can make people rich overnight. Norway has had some success in controlling outbreaks in reindeer herds but it requires eradication over a vast area and diligence to ensure more animals don’t enter the cwd zone over many years. Some countries are now restricting feed stock imports from the us because of outbreaks since it has been proven plants do uptake these prions and can pass them along. One of the biggest obstacles has been captive cervids that have been classified as livestock to gain federal ag commodity support. Eliminating captive cervids, ie… deer and elk, is something that has to be looked at seriously. This started in captive herd’s at a gov research facility in CO back in the 60’s. Current research indicates the vast majority of new cases start inside pens and is transferred to wild animals via escapees or interaction through fences. This is a serious matter and can affect many areas of our economy and food supply. Terry Singletary has a blogspot that has hundreds of links to articles about cwd and prion disease in general. Many are wonky type scientific studies from around the world and can be difficult for the average reader to wade through. It’s definitely worth searching for and looking thru if your concerned about this disease. Many researchers speculate it’s already affecting humans and has been mis diagnosed in the past since so little was understood. For the record, I hunted deer religiously for over 40yrs until an outbreak was recorded near my property in N MO. Testing became mandatory for me, no way I could feed someone venison I shot and not know if it was contaminated. Subsequently I sold my property as I watched recreation ground drop in value in my area. Now I’ve more or less given up deer hunting, something I lived for most of my life. Make jokes or educate yourself, either way cwd is here to stay and I’m afraid the impact down the road is going to be far greater than everyone but a handful of people realize.
CWD was a big scare about a decade ago in WI, the DNR restricted the feeding of deer or the use of salt licks…basically anything that brought different groups of deer together to “eat” from a single source. It pretty well managed the issue in the north, where the herd has plenty of food sources.
Additionally, hunters were encouraged to shoot and deliver these deer to DNR stations for research and disposal.
WI no longer has any of these restrictions…at least in the north.
Also, if you’re a hunter you’ll know if the deer you’re targeting has CWD….its pretty obvious. Lastly, there is no known case of CWD spreading to humans.
But I will say prions are BIZARRE things….proteins that act like viruses.
..wild stuff….”This Podcast Will Kill You” did any episode on it….check it out.
Not so long ago the CFIA, Health Canada and academia said all this mad cow, mad whatever, lyme disease was all bullshit. And anyone who said othewise was a wacko. BUT, now that this lot has got budget and can make it into a money racket – well, sky’s the limit.
So don’t expect truth or treatment from this lot. Gather your information independently and without prejudice otherwise. Make an objective analysis. Corrupted official sources always pump out a Party Line that fills their pockets, boosts their budget, advances their careers, crowds out any competition.
Pretty much like everything.