‘Zombie deer disease’ detected in Indiana, 33rd state to see condition

‘Zombie deer disease’ detected in Indiana, 33rd state to see condition

Indiana officials announced that they have detected their first case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in a deer, marking the 33rd state to record wildlife with the condition, dubbed “zombie deer disease” because of the strange behaviour of infected animals.

The infected animal in Indiana, a hunter-harvested white-tailed deer taken during deer season in LaGrange County, was found on 5 April, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

“Currently, there are no management actions that have been shown to cure deer of CWD, prevent deer from getting CWD, stop or significantly slow the spread of CWD, or eradicate CWD from the deer herd,” the agency said in a statement. “This is especially true of areas like LaGrange County, where we expected to find the disease, based on CWD-positive cases across the border in Michigan.”

CWD, first discovered in Colorado in the 1960s, is caused by a misfolded protein called a prion, and impacts the nervous system of deer, elk, and moose.

It can cause the creatures to appear lethargic, move in an off-balance way, and drool excessively. Animals with CWD frequently become emaciated and die.

The US CDC advises hunters to avoid deer that are sick, already dead, or exhibiting any strange behaviours, and to handle wild game meat with gloves and other sanitary procedures.

It also suggests hunters follow state guidance and use resources to test their meat if possible.

Those in Indiana can call the DNR’s Deer Disease Hotline at 844-803-0002 with questions.

CWD, which is contagious between deer and spreads with bodily contact, bodily fluids, and contaminated environments, can remain in the soil of an area for years after it is introduced.

The condition has been spotted in animals in states near Indiana including Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Kentucky.

“To date, there is no strong evidence for the occurrence of CWD in people, and it is not known if people can get infected with CWD prions,” according to the CDC.

Researchers have studied the case of two hunters who ate infected deer meat and later tested positive for a rare and fatal brain disorder, though they concluded more study was needed to establish any potential link.