Photo by Getty Images
in , ,

‘Zombie Deer Disease’ Is A Thing Now. Here’s What You Need To Know.

We never knew the end of the world would involve so many fuzzy forest creatures.

The newest thing to be terrified of is called “Zombie Deer Disease.”

Have you seen Last Train to Busan


What is it‽

According to Newsweek:

“The term has been used to describe chronic wasting disease (CWD), a neurodegenerative disorder that affects deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer and moose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.)”

“CWD is thought to be caused by mysterious infectious pathogens known as abnormal “prion” proteins. These damage normal prion proteins that are mostly found in the brain and spinal cord, resulting in diseases that usually progress quickly after the onset of symptoms and are always fatal.  In the case of CWD, the protein damage causes holes to develop in the brain of the infected animal.”

The “Zombie” moniker likely comes from the symptoms, including:

“drastic weight loss (wasting,) stumbling, listlessness, drooling, a lack of fear and aggression.”

So if cute forest deer seems like it’s lookin’ a little dead, or if it comes near you of its own volition, which deer basically NEVER do to humans…


Here’s an interesting question: can it affect humans‽

Well, thankfully, not so far.

“To date, no cases of CWD have been reported in humans,” continues the Newsweek piece.  However, that does not mean it could not happen-specifically to anybody who may have consumed contaminated venison.

“We are in an unknown territory situation,” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told USA Today.

“It is probable that human cases of chronic wasting disease associated with consumption of contaminated meat will be documented in the years ahead. It’s possible the number of human cases will be substantial and will not be isolated events.”

Osterholm also warned people about the risk of the similar Mad Cow Disease before the outbreak began affecting people in the late 1990s in the UK.

“We don’t want to find out 10 years from now,” Osterholm said, “that we should have been doing something in 2019 but didn’t.”

As of January 2019, 251 counties in 24 states were reporting cases of the neurodegenerative disorder in deer, elk, or moose.

Summary: don’t panic yet.

But you may want to skip the venison until we have more answers.

Oh, yeah, and here’s that scene from Last Train to Busan.


Written by Mike Walsh

Mike is a writer, dancer, actor, and singer who recently graduated with his MFA from Columbia University. Mike's daily ambitions are to meet new dogs and make new puns on a daily basis. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @mikerowavables.