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‘Zombie’ deer disease in Utah, could eventually spread to humans, experts warn

Posted at 3:52 PM, Feb 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-19 22:54:48-05

UTAH COUNTY — Chronic wasting disease, also known as a “zombie” deer disease is in Utah, the Center for Disease Control stated Tuesday.

The deadly disease is affecting deer in 24 states and two Canadian provinces and could spread to humans.

According to the CDC, the disease has been observed in Carbon, Daggett, Grand, San Juan, Sanpete, Uintah and Utah counties.

DWR officials said the disease has been in Utah since 2002 but has not been very widespread.

While there have not been cases of the disease reported in humans, Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told lawmakers human cases will likely be “documented in the years ahead.”

Chronic wasting disease was first identified in captive deer in the late 1960s in Colorado and in wild deer in 1981, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms include drooling, stumbling, lack of coordination, lack of fear of people, aggression and listlessness — which explains the “zombie” deer disease nickname.

The disease is considered a prion disease. Prion diseases are a family of rare progressive neurodegenerative disorders that affect both humans and animals, according to the CDC.

CNN contributed to portions of this report.