Despite the fact that the disease that turns deer into zombies sounds like a phrase from a cheap horror movie, a disease affecting deer around the world can adapt to infecting other living things, including humans. What kind of illness is there and is there a way to protect yourself from it? It seems that the zombie apocalypse can really come someday, so it's important that people are prepared for it.
What is a chronic debilitating disease?
A deer zombie disease or simply a "chronic debilitating disease" was first discovered in the State of Colorado, where the first victims of this mysterious disease were found. Some wild populations of elk and white-tailed deer were affected by the then unknown disease. A dangerous disease is believed to be transmitted by uninfected animals that come in contact with contaminated urine, blood, saliva or other body fluids.
Despite the fact that there are more and more victims of a strange disease, scientists still do not know exactly what is causing the disease. At present, it is believed that the disease is caused by prions – infectious agents that are represented by specific proteins that are able to penetrate and gradually destroy a healthy nerve cell in the body.
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A chronically debilitating disease is considered deadly, and modern medicine can not cure it yet. Nevertheless, the scientists managed to classify the disease as a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy and to highlight it as one of the twelve known diseases of this species, including "mad cow disease". Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies are characterized by what is caused by prions and affects the brain of patients, often resulting in the formation of many small holes in the cerebral cortex, giving them a spongy appearance. This is one of the reasons why such diseases are sometimes referred to as "zombie" diseases.
Deer infected with a chronic debilitating disease undergo a long, slow decline. The first symptoms that occur in an infected stag are difficulty in coordinating movement and uncontrolled salivation, which can contribute to the spread of the disease. Almost all cases of chronic debilitating diseases also result in behavioral changes in the affected deer as their brain gradually becomes like a sponge. Similar behavioral problems may include decreased socialization with other animals, unusual lowering of the head, lethargy, increased nervousness, tremors, and repeated patterns of movement.
Can a zombie virus infect humans?
So far, not a single case of the spread of a chronic debilitating disease in humans has been registered. However, scientists continue to warn the public about the possibility of transmitting the disease to humans through the use of contaminated meat. The researchers believe that due to their incredible contagion and adaptability, a "zombie disease" may in a few years experience the nature of an epidemic among humans without capturing infected animals in time.
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Disease has been found in the forests of the USA, Canada and Northern Europe. Despite the fact that no cases of human morbidity have yet been identified, experts conducted laboratory experiments to determine if the disease could potentially affect human organisms. Researchers have discovered that in a Petri dish, prions from an infected stag can infect human cells. Although the zombie apocalypse is unlikely, their outbreak is still possible.