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"Zombie Deer Disease" Affects Two More US States After Two White-Tailed Deers In Virginia Test Positive

In Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, West Virginia, two white-tailed deer recently tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD), a neurological ailment fatal to deer and similar species. This represents the first CWD-positive detection within a national park in West Virginia, as stated by the National Park Service (NPS). The affected deer were culled during a routine population reduction effort on NPS property. Additionally, CWD-positive cases were reported in deer at nearby Antietam and Monocacy battlefield parks, both located on the Maryland side of the Potomac River. The NPS explained that deer population reductions are conducted in national parks, including Harpers Ferry, to safeguard native flora, preserve historic landscapes, and manage wildlife populations. While such efforts have been carried out previously, this year marked the first positive detections of CWD in these parks.

Chronic wasting disease, colloquially termed 'zombie deer disease', manifests as a neurological disorder characterized by confusion, drooling, and behavioral abnormalities in affected animals. Initially detected in Yellowstone National Park in November the previous year, CWD is caused by misfolded proteins called prions, which spread throughout the central nervous system post-infection, resulting in prion deposition in brain tissues and organs. Deer infected with CWD exhibit symptoms such as weight loss, stumbling, lethargy, and vacant expressions, hence earning the moniker "zombie deer disease". Although symptoms may take over a year to develop, there is currently no cure or vaccine for CWD.

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While no instances of CWD transmission to humans have been documented, studies suggest potential risks to primates consuming infected animal meat or having contact with infected tissues or bodily fluids. Despite the absence of confirmed human cases, experts caution that CWD poses a significant threat and advise governments to prepare for the possibility of transmission to humans. Consequently, the emergence of CWD has been labeled a "slow-moving disaster," prompting calls for proactive measures to mitigate risks associated with this disease.

April 25, 2024 4:17 p.m. 6544

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