‘zombie’ deer disease is catching the attention of the Congress

Support has grown for legislation on Capitol Hill calling for a closer look at a fatal disease in animals that may one day threaten humans.

Incessant squandering illness influences deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer and moose, as indicated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and has been found in the U.S., Canada, Norway and South Korea. The fatal neurodegenerative disorder has been described as a “zombie” disease, as the CDC says its symptoms include stumbling, listlessness and dramatic weight loss.

As of January, the CDC says cases of chronic wasting disease in free-ranging members of the deer family had been reported in 251 U.S. counties in 24 states, including Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Researchers think the condition likely spreads between animals through body fluids, however measures in both the House and Senate call for a study to examine and identify how it’s transmitted among herds, in hopes of combating the disease and its ripple effects.

“The spread of chronic wasting disease among the deer population threatens our local economies and, for many, a way of life that has long valued a tradition of hunting and conservation,” Sen. Doug Jones, an Alabama Democrat and original co-sponsor of the Senate measure, said in a statement.

The measures each have multiplied their help in this session of Congress than the last, with 16 recorded co-patrons for the House enactment as of Friday and 27 for the Senate bill. In the House, GOP Rep. John Joyce of Pennsylvania – whose thirteenth District would have been influenced by a since-ended exertion to battle the infection by winnowing deer – declared he would co-support the enactment this week.

“We cannot just let (chronic wasting disease) continue to expand its footprint in our region without addressing it,” Joyce said in a statement. “The legislation I am cosponsoring today will allow us to devote all the possible resources necessary into studying this disease and developing a strategy to combat it, but will do so at no detriment to the hunters in PA-13.”

The measures likewise come in the midst of concerns the malady could be passed to people, with some early research indicating macaque monkeys that had eaten contaminated meat gotten the condition, however the discoveries clashed with those of another examination.

“Animal studies suggest CWD poses a risk to some types of non-human primates, like monkeys, that eat meat from CWD-infected animals or come in contact with brain or body fluids from infected deer or elk,” the CDC says. “These studies raise concerns that there may also be a risk to people.”

Meanwhile, another type of prion disease – referring to the pathogenic agents thought to be at the root of such conditions – is mad cow disease. The CDC says there is “strong epidemiologic and laboratory evidence” for a causal relationship between mad cow disease and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, an “invariably fatal” condition in humans.

At a recent hearing in Minnesota, Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, told state lawmakers it’s probable “that human cases of CWD associated with the consumption of contaminated meat will be documented in the years ahead,” according to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press.

“It is possible that number of human cases will be substantial and will not be isolated events,” Osterholm said.

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