185 deer test positive for ‘zombie’ disease in Tennessee

(WVLT) — Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a disease that has impacted: white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. It is progressive and fatal, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

“We had 185 out of 3000 deer that we tested, 185 positives,” said Matthew Cameron with TWRA. “We will pick back up on our testing next fall and hopefully we won’t see it spreading.”

The disease causes damage to portions of the brain, creating holes in the brain cells and causing a sponge-like appearance. Animals with the disease are typically emaciated, display abnormal behavior, lose bodily functions, become weak and then eventually die.

“t’s not a living organism, so it spreads easily and can’t be killed very easily, so it spreads rapidly and easily because of that,” said Cameron.

Previously, TWRA said the disease did not appear to affect humans. Now, however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say infection in humans is possible.

“The best that we can tell and research shows that a human cannot get it from eating an infected animal, so that’s a good thing; however, the CDC recommends that no one eat a deer if its a known infected deer,” said Cameron.

According to CBS affiliate WJHL, CDC reported that a 2017 study showed monkeys who ate infected deer meat contracted CWD.

As of now, there are no known cases of humans with CWD. The CDC has warned the public to test venison or elk meat for CWD before eating it from affected areas.

Signs in animals include: loss of appetite, excess salivation, weight loss, excessive thirst and urination, listlessness, teeth grinding and lowering the head and drooping of the ears.

For CWD facts, go here. To find Tennessee areas impacted by CWD, go here.